“In this day and age people get so carried away. You don’t get carried away with a 5-2 win or a 1-0 loss. We need to enjoy watching our team again.” – Reading Manager Brian McDermott
“Before the red card you could see how well the team played without the pressure of the table. But we have to accept it. Next time we drop to 10 men, we will be better.” – Huddersfield Manager David Wagner
Everyone knows to expect the unexpected when it comes to the FA Cup. When Huddersfield went 2-0 up after just fifteen minutes, however, many would have thought that was the tie done and dusted- especially considering Reading’s performance in the opening stages of the game. A red card for Jon Hogg was what was required to turn the tie on its head, as it set the home side on their way to what ultimately was an emphatic 5-2 victory.
The two sides finished level at 2-2 in the opening FA Cup fixture- courtesy of a late Nahki Wells penalty- so many would have been expecting a tight run game once more. Brian McDermott surprisingly made no alterations to the Reading squad going into the game, while David Wagner made four changes to the Huddersfield team following their 1-1 draw against Fulham. The Terriers, subsequently, started like a team with fresher legs amongst their ranks.
The Royals struggled to get into the game from the off, with two defensive errors costing the home side early on. Jake Cooper, whose performances have been largely impressive in recent games, was at fault for at least the first goal with his usually effective headed clearance falling instead at the feet of Nahki Wells. After playing in Jamie Paterson, the Huddersfield striker took his tally of goals against Reading to three for the season by finding the back of the net. The second came courtesy of a Tommy Smith drive in off the far post, with Reading performing like a team intent on throwing away the opportunity to advance in the competition.
The only reason why Reading were still somewhat in the game in the first-half is due to the heroics of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. When others were falling apart around him, the sometimes calamitous goalie came to the rescue on a number of occasions to prevent the scoreline increasing.
The major turning point in the match- and arguably why Reading were able to get into the game- was the sending off of Jon Hogg just outside the Huddersfield penalty area. The incident was not too dissimilar to the one in the game against MK Dons, with Matej Vydra being hacked down on route to goal. The difference is, however, that while the MK Dons player was only given a yellow, Hogg was given his marching orders. While it demonstrates a clear inconsistency that exists with refereeing standards in the sport, it was a decision that turned the game on its head.
Reading’s comeback trail began almost immediately, with Lucas Piazon stepping up to strike a 20-yard beauty into the back of Joe Murphy’s goal from the resulting free-kick. If the scoreline was not problematic enough, Garath McCleary going down with what looked like a hamstring injury was not going to help matters. If anyone had to replace him, however, Ola John was a great option to have on the bench. The Royals went into half-time 2-1 behind but with momentum in their favour.
The Royals were on the front foot as the second-half got under way- sensing that the game was there for the taking. Huddersfield were increasingly happy to sit deep and defend what they had, but it was always going to be a dangerous tactic away from home and down to ten men.
Despite receiving a magnitude of criticism in recent weeks for not living up to expectation, it was Matej Vydra who came to Reading’s rescue- bagging himself a hat-trick in the second half. The first came just before the hour mark following a great break led by Ola John before Hal Robson-Kanu forced a smart save from the Huddersfield goalkeeper. Vydra was ready to pounce on the rebound and his volleyed effort from close range saw the scores go level once more.
The second for the Czech striker was also from close range, following a pinpoint driven cross from the highly effective John. Despite Nahki Wells temporarily worrying the home support when his chipped effort struck the bar, Vydra went on to seal his hat-trick when Oliver Norwood provided him with the kind of through ball he has been asking for all season. After cutting in onto his left foot, the striker dispatched the effort with ease.
At 4-2, and with only stoppage time to go, the game was already won but substitute Alex Fernandez netted from 20-yards to score his first Reading goal in style. As a fan favourite, in part due to his enthusiasm on social media, it was a goal that clearly meant a lot to both the player and the fans. The goal is also something that will surely do the player no harm in his pursuit of more game time.
While the 5-2 scoreline was ultimately emphatic, it does not provide the full picture of what, at times, was a concerning display from the home side. In the opening period of play, Huddersfield could have been out of sight had it not been for some crucial saves from Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal. Had Huddersfield also not had a man dismissed then Reading would have probably continued to struggle.
This being said the performance in the second-half was far better with the Reading players being given a lot more space to operate in. The hat-trick for Vydra will do him the world of good and hopefully, unlike Sa following his earlier this season, he will continue to push on for the upcoming games.
Other than the sending off, the other key change in the game for me was the introduction of Ola John. Having been absent through injury for a few matches, the midfielder made his return as a substitute against MK Dons. His performance off the bench this time around was much more impressive, however, having been allowed time to make an impact on the game following the injury sustained to Garath McCleary. John was key in much of the attacking play in the second half and based on his performance should certainly be in the starting line-up more often.
Together with the announcement of the new signing George Evans, Tuesday was a largely positive day for the Berkshire club. McDermott and the squad will be keen to push on now and recreate their form from the early part of the season.
The Royals take on League One side Walsall in the next round of the FA Cup- what can be considered as a favourable draw for the Championship club. As has been said before however- anything can happen.