With a place in the FA Cup Semi-Finals at stake, the game between Bradford City and Reading was always going to be a hard fought game. The overall quality of football on display at Valley Parade, however, was more often than not below par with both teams failing to keep the ball under control on a poor surface. Despite several half-chances from both sides, neither team managed to find the net with the game eventually finishing 0-0.
It could be argued that Steve Clarke set up his Reading side for the draw from the off. Choosing to field Pavel Pogrebnyak up top as the sole striker, with five in midfield, it was difficult for the Russian to get many opportunities in front of goal. Pogrebnyak’s best effort to open the scoring came in the first half. Jamie Mackie got through on the right wing before cutting the ball back to Pogrebnyak in the middle, whose snapshot rocketed off the post. Apart from that, the striker struggled to get the ball up top with Bradford players constantly surrounding him.
Reading seemed to start the game brightly, taking control in the first twenty minutes and silencing the home crowd. Both teams were not afraid of going into tackles and it was nice to see players from both sides getting straight back up from them and carrying on without fuss. Bradford themselves were to hit the post, with a Gary Liddle cross going through the crowd of players in the box before rebounding off the goal on the right hand side of the box. Going into the second half, it must be said that Bradford were the better team. One Jordan Obita mistake gifted Filipe Morais an opportunity which, fortunately for the Royals, was scuffed. Further chances fell to Jon Stead and Andrew Davies but neither were able to put the Bantams in front. The introduction of Garath McCleary and Yakubu did little to help Reading going forward, as Bradford continued to pressure the Reading defence. A late injury to Alex Pearce, with a nasty looking facial wound, threatened to see Reading end the game with ten men but following a complete pitch-side kit change, the skipper soldiered on to see his side through to full-time. Despite much pressure from Bradford, especially in the second half, the match ended goalless.
Defensively, a special mention must be given to Michael Hector and Nathaniel Chalobah. Prior to his substitution, due to an injury inflicted by Alex Pearce, Chalobah was key particularly in clearing out a number of successive balls into the box from Morais. Michael Hector also continues to impress, being a strong presence in the back four when needed. Stephen Kelly is also deserving of a mention as his sliding tackle to dispossess Jon Stead in the box was another key moment, preventing Bradford from taking the opportunity to take the lead.
No report of the game is complete without a mention of the state of the pitch. Post-match, Bradford striker Jon Stead said that the pitch did not effect the game, but he is much mistaken. Reading fans will be fully aware of the current state of the Madejski pitch, but the Bradford pitch was much worse. The condition of the pitch in areas was so poor, it was impossible to string any passes together along the ground. As a result, the game was made up of long hopeful balls and scrappy clearances which were headed back and forth between the two teams. Stephen Kelly’s attempted cross particularly highlighted the impact of the pitch. In plenty of space down the wing, Kelly waited for the ball to roll across the ground before hitting it towards goal. The ball, however, bobbled over the poor surface causing Kelly to miskick the ball out of play.
After a poor quality display from both sides this time around, Reading will be confident of getting a result next time around despite their currently poor form at home. On a slightly better pitch, Reading players will be able to play the ball along the ground more effectively and have more opportunities to run at their opponents. If anything is to be taken from today’s match, however, we know that Bradford won’t go down without a fight. Back at the Madejski if the fans can replicate the atmosphere from today, Reading will be favourites to make home advantage count and get through to the Semi-Finals.