Match Report: 2011/2012 Season

7 January 2012: FA CUP ROUND 3
Reading: -
Stevenage: Charles (21 mins).
Half Time: 0-1.

Attendance: 11,295

Pos Team P Pts GD
4 Middlesbrough 25 45 +7
5 READING 25 39 +7
6 Hull 25 39 +1
Reading: A Federici, I Harte, K Gorkss, A Pearce, S Cummings (L D'Ath, 86), J McAnuff, M Leigertwood, J Tabb (M Antonio, 52), H Robson-Kanu, A Le Fondre (M Manset, 63), S Church.
Subs not used: M Andersen, J Mills, B Gunnarsson, S Morrison.
Stevenage: C Day, M Roberts, J Ashton, S Laird, R Henry, M Bostwick, J Byrom, L Wilson, L Freeman (B Harrison, 71), C Beardsley (P Edwards, 88), D Charles (R Shroot, 80).
Subs not used: A Julian, S Long, D Cowan, M Thalassitis.
Reading: Le Fondre.
Stevenage: -.
Ref: Nigel Miller.
Just when you think things are going to get better, a performance and a result like this brings everyone back down to earth with a bump. Reading fielded the strongest side available and were outplayed and dumped out of the Cup by a fairly ordinary team from a lower league. Admittedly Stevenage are on a good run but so were Reading and there can be no excuses for this abject performance. It was not however completely out of the blue. A good result from an indifferent performance against Ipswich and then a poor performance against Cardiff indicated a loss of form which today's game confirmed. Karacan's absence was significant in a midfield which lacked commitment and if his omission was planned rather than enforced it proved to be a big mistake. The Stevenage defence underlined a fundamental weakness in Reading's game. There is simply not enough strength amongst the strikers available to Brian McDermott. Church and Le Fondre were unable win anything in the air, which is where the ball was most of the time, and when the ball was played in their feet they were too slow to react and nowhere near strong enough to hold the ball up.

Stevenage started brightly and had two good strikes on goal in the opening five minutes as the Reading back four back-pedalled while Stevenage swarmed though midfield unopposed. In between Church had a shot deflected wide. Borough took the lead on twenty-six minutes when McAnuff McAnuff tried to outsmart his marker when facing his own goal just inside the Reading half. Was there an option for him? Did he consider laying it off? Either way Stevenage won the ball and Charles wasted no time in getting his shot away (Reading please note!) and Federici who went on to be Reading's best player appeared to be wrong-footed and the ball deflected past him into the net. Still Reading did not respond and were generally second to the ball all over the pitch. Borough defenders and midfield were often allowed to head the ball unchallenged. Reading's passing was erratic to say the least and over the ninety minutes Borough enjoyed more possession and had more strikes on goal. Stevenage missed a good chance on the stroke of half time when Charles put the ball over from a couple of yards.

The second half brought changes when Tabb was forced off through injury and Antonio injected a bit of urgency but a poor touch let him down when broke through on the right and then he fluffed the Reading's best chance of the game when Church's deft touch left him with only the 'keeper to beat. Manset came on and charged about but made little impact. Robson-Kanu worked hard to get behind the defence but Borough denied him any time and space. What was needed to break down their workmanlike opponents was some subtle passing and movement and to be honest the Royals did not appear to have the potential to achieve that at any point in the game. Reading had players with superior technique and ability but not in areas where it mattered. Good saves from Federici prevented further embarrassment. My son pointed out quite correctly that the highlight of the day was our pre-match trip to B&Q!
John Wells

Horrid hoof ball all game. Lwood was shocking, no interest at all, the ball never went out to the wings. Church was clueless. From kick off we had no shape - this is Big Mac's responsibility and at no point did the players look like challenging for 2nd balls. Why was Manset playing on the wing at the end of the game? Frankly I'm disgusted and want my 8 parking and 15 ticket money back! The only plus for me was D'Ath at the end, he at least looked commited and played the ball on the floor! Sell: Church, Tabb, Howard, Antonio and get in someone who can be bothered. Cr@p

I will start by saying well done to Stevenage. They were well drilled, competitive and fought for every ball - one of the best sides we have seen at the Madstad this season - even if obviously lacking a little in quality. As for Reading we were DIRE. No one comes out with much credit apart from Federici - who kept us in the game. The awful were Tabb, Leigertwood and Church The poor were HRK and ALF The average were Harte, Pearce, Gorkks, Cummings, McAnuff, Manset and Antonio The only one ranking as good was Federici At least we can now concentrate on the League!!

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Darius Charles hit the only goal of the game as League One Stevenage knocked Reading out of the FA Cup. Stevenage, beaten by Reading in the fourth round last year, took the lead when Charles fired past Adam Federici from the edge of the area. Michail Antonio wasted a good chance to draw Reading level after the break as he sliced wide. And Stevenage could have doubled their advantage when Joel Byrom's shot was tipped over by Federici. Graham Westley's Stevenage went into the game on a run of just one defeat in the last 14 matches in all competitions, and started in confident mood. Scott Laird had the first chance of the afternoon when he headed Luke Freeman's corner wide. The impressive Laird was involved in the decisive goal. His run from midfield was unchecked and he released Charles, who was able to shrug off his marker to clip beyond Federici. Reading rallied briefly, with midfielder Jay Tabb sending a left-footed effort wide. But Brian McDermott's Championship side lacked spark throughout, and could have fallen further behind when, from another tricky Freeman corner, Chris Beardsley nodded tamely off target. The Royals improved slightly as the second half began, with striker Adam Le Fondre forcing a dramatic save from Chris Day in the Stevenage goal. A clear chance went begging when Wales international Simon Church headed into the path of the onrushing Antonio, who sliced wide with only Day to beat. Stevenage, who beat Newcastle in the third round last season, went close to a second when Joel Byrom's dipping drive from 25 yards was juggled, then smothered, by Federici. Reading poured forward as they searched for an equaliser but substitute Mathieu Manset fired wide in stoppage time.

Reading manager Brian McDermott:
"Stevenage are organised, with a fantastic manager who has done a terrific job. They deserved to win. We were a little bit too nice today. We had to win more tackles and more second balls. You can have times when players don't play to their level as individuals but today we didn't perform as a unit. For me it should have been a 0-0 game. We have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the past couple of years and we wanted a good run again this season. Our energy levels were not good enough and we didn't move the ball well. I have been disappointed in our performance in the last couple of games and all we can do is move on quickly."

BBC Sport