“At times today some of our football was very good, especially leading up to the goals. And we’re delighted to get through a tricky game.”– Reading Manager Brian McDermott
“We got caught a couple of times and as the game progressed we realised we couldn’t overplay in the middle of the park, and when we got the ball forward we were a threat.”– Walsall Manager Sean O’Driscoll
Despite a lacklustre start to proceedings, Reading eased to victory in their FA Cup fourth round fixture against League One side Walsall. Matej Vydra took his goal tally in the competition to six as his brace helped the Royals to a 4-0 victory, with Danny Williams and Hal Robson-Kanu also contributing.
With a number of Reading’s new signings sidelined due to being cup-tied, Brian McDermott made minimal changes to the starting line-up. The major change was the return of Aaron Tshibola straight back into the team, with Paul McShane and Michael Hector taking their place on the bench.
For the majority of the first-half Reading struggled to piece anything together and retain possession. Matej Vydra was looking increasingly frustrated and copious long balls were looped towards him with little effect. Walsall enjoyed decent spells on the ball but as would be expected, offered little real threat in the final third. One decent opportunity did, however, fall to Tom Bradshaw whose effort was only narrowly deflected by Jake Cooper round the post. While the game remained at 0-0, the away side would have secretly been optimistic of causing an upset. Once they went behind, however, the tie was beyond them.
Before Reading took the lead, the home side suffered a blow through the injury to Tshibola. As one of the most promising talents to come out of the academy in recent times, the youngster has been missed in the first team. It would seem that his return to action came too early and only time will tell to see how long he will be out of action for. At such an early stage of the game, it must be said that McDermott’s choice of substitute was questionable- bringing Hector on in midfield. While it did not effect the game too much, against stronger opposition in future it is not a move I would suggest repeating.
As the game approached half-time, Reading were to take the lead from nowhere. Hal Robson-Kanu, who is currently having a great spell at the club, was picked out by a throw in on the right before rolling it past Andy Taylor and firing it into the roof of Neil Etheridge’s net. Only a few minutes later, Vydra doubled Reading’s lead following a nice bit of interplay between Danny Williams and Stephen Quinn. Williams managed to expertly hold onto the ball on the edge of the area before playing the ball out wide to an open Quinn. His driven cross was delivered perfectly for Vydra to slot into the net from close range.
Despite having less possession and not threatening the goal too frequently, Reading went into half-time 2-0 up, despatching their opportunities in a clinical fashion. Walsall will have been frustrated to have gone in 1-0 behind, so being two goals down will have been difficult to take.
As the second-half got underway, both sides were keen to keep the goals coming as they took turns in striking the crossbar. Firstly a neat one two between Walsall’s Anthony Forde and Romaine Sawyers saw the latter’s effort from range cannon off the corner of the crossbar. Minutes later, Oliver Norwood saw his own attempt from a free-kick come back off the bar- preventing the scoreline increasing further.
With 75 minutes of the game gone, a great solo effort from Williams was to take the game beyond any doubt. Vydra played in the midfielder, positioned in the number ten role for the match, and ran at the Walsall defence for all of thirty yards before slotting the ball into the goal. Walsall goalkeeper Etheridge collided with his own player in the process and subsequently had to be stretchered off.
Despite preventing Williams from getting his second of the match by tapping in the ball from an offside position, Vydra ended the game on a high with his second and Reading’s fourth of the day. With the game coming to a close, Chris Gunter came up with an inch-perfect cross for Vydra to head into the net from close range.
Vydra in particular seems to be enjoying the FA Cup competition and as long as he keeps scoring, Reading will be confident of extending their run further. Hal Robson-Kanu and Danny Williams also continued to impress, both looking a persistent threat throughout. The Royals will only have to wait until Sunday to find out their opposition for the next round of the competition but you feel that it will offer a tougher test to the Championship side than in this round.