YAKUBU’S AP­PETITE WHET­TED BY RAMS

Roy­als move into last eight

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FIFTH ROUND - By Chris Dunlavy

HE may be a touch rounder at the waist. He may be a lit­tle slower off the mark. But when it comes to hit­ting the net, Yakubu re­mains one of the best in the busi­ness.

Now 32, the well-trav­elled Nige­rian joined Read­ing as a free agent in Jan­uary – the 12th club of a no­madic ca­reer that has taken him to Is­rael, China and Qatar.

But the for­mer Mid­dles­brough and Ever­ton striker dis­pelled any no­tion that he is a spent force by step­ping off the bench to fire Read­ing into the FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nals.

Lead­ing through Hal Rob­son-Kanu, the Roy­als lost their way against ten­man Derby and when Dar­ren Bent bagged a de­served equaliser a re­play looked a sure bet.

En­ter ‘the Yak’, who was fed by Rob­son-Kanu and duly scored, out­strip­ping Richard Keogh be­fore lanc­ing an inch-per­fect fin­ish into the bot­tom cor­ner just 11 min­utes af­ter com­ing on.

“When I saw that big smile on the touch­line, I knew we could be in trou­ble,” said Rams boss Steve McClaren, who signed Yakubu for Mid­dles­brough ten years ago.

“His first touch was ex­cel­lent, his sec­ond touch was even bet­ter. It was a qual­ity goal. I don’t know what age he is now. Mind you, I didn’t know what age he was then. He told me he was 25 when he signed for Boro. But you

never lose that qual­ity. He was the only per­son on the pitch who could have fin­ished like that.”

De­lighted Read­ing boss Steve Clarke also hailed his match-win­ner, who scored 120 goals for Pre­mier League sides Portsmouth, Boro and Ever­ton.

“Yak’s a goalscorer,” said the Scot. “You know when he’s go­ing through one on one he’ll hit the tar­get and nine times out of ten he scores. Thank­fully this was one of them.

“He got a nice rein­tro­duc­tion to the Cham­pi­onship in mid-week. He came on against Leeds, got an el­bow in the face and broke his nose. We straight­ened that up, so he’s still look­ing gor­geous.

“And you saw to­day why we took him. He scores goals. It’s what he does.”

Yakubu’s strike was harsh on a Derby side who had bat­tled with both brav­ery and class fol­low­ing the first-half dis­missal of debu­tant Stephen Warnock.

Hav­ing up­ended Rob­son-Kanu to col­lect his first book­ing, the 33-yearold full-back could have no com­plaints af­ter pil­ing late into Jamie Mackie shortly be­fore half-time. And when Rob­son-Kanu then bent Simon Cox’s neat cut back into the top-cor­ner and Pavel Po­greb­nyak had a header cleared off the line, an away victory seemed a for­mal­ity.

Yet Derby’s re­sponse, al­beit driven pri­mar­ily by the de­sire to avoid a re­play, was bold and bril­liant as they con­tin­ued to pour for­ward in num­bers. Their re­ward came when Bent in­ad­ver­tently de­flected Jesse Lin­gard’s mis­cued shot be­yond Adam Fed­erici, who then leapt full-length to deny Jamie Ward as the home side pressed.

But, while ad­mirable, the home­side’s threat left them wide open at the back. Cox missed a host of chances, Po­greb­nyak had a shot saved and, when Rob­son-Kanu slipped a clever ball into space, Yakubu burst be­tween Keogh and Ryan Shot­ton to make it 2-1. A shat­tered Derby side had no chance of launch­ing a sec­ond come­back.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed to go out,” said McClaren.

“But I thought the per­for­mance was mag­nif­i­cent.

“It was a fan­tas­tic ef­fort and I thought the play­ers were heroic.

“Yes, we could have gone all de­fen­sive, gone 4-4-1 and tried to get a draw.

“But we wanted a re­sult. We opened the game up and went for it and even with ten men we kept play­ing, kept pass­ing from the back, kept cre­at­ing chances. I can’t fault them.”

FOOT IN: Simon Dawkins, left, is tack­led by Michael Hec­tor

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

HE’S YAK: Read­ing cel­e­brate as Yakubu, right, scores his first goal for Read­ing

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