Brad­ford and Read­ing face an FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal re­play

Just 48 hours re­cov­ery time

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

READ­ING boss Steve Clarke ac­cused the FA of de­valu­ing their own com­pe­ti­tion af­ter his side were forced into a quar­ter­fi­nal re­play just 48 hours af­ter a Cham­pi­onship clash at Wat­ford.

UEFA rules state that do­mes­tic matches may not be played on the same evening as any Cham­pi­ons League or Europa League tie.

Fail­ure to com­ply in 2013 cost the FA £1.1m in with­held sol­i­dar­ity pay­ments and has prompted them to sched­ule the quar­ter fi­nal re­play for the evening of Mon­day, March 16.

But af­ter see­ing his side battle to a de­served 0-0 draw at Val­ley Pa­rade, the Roy­als boss couldn’t care less about the FA’s cof­fers and has urged them to defy UEFA’s or­ders.

“The FA have de­val­ued the com­pe­ti­tion with that,” said Clarke. “Both teams play away on the Satur­day, get one day to re­cover and then have to go again.

“Every­body talks about the FA Cup and the his­tory of the com­pe­ti­tion. And as a per­son, I love the FA Cup. I love ev­ery­thing it stands for. Brad­ford’s run to this point has been amaz­ing and to have a League One club play­ing a Cham­pi­onship club at this point shows why it’s Eng­land’s pre­mier Cup com­pe­ti­tion. All that ro­mance is still there. But for some rea­son the FA have cho­sen to hold the re­play on a Mon­day night and de­value their com­pe­ti­tion.”

In­formed that the FA were bound by UEFA’s rules, Clarke re­fused to re­lent. “Why don’t they just play it?” he added.“Why not? What are UEFA go­ing to do? That would be my ques­tion.”

Ban­tams boss Phil Parkin­son -– whose side face a trip to Notts County that week­end – cut a more diplo­matic fig­ure.

“When I heard it was Mon­day night I did ques­tion it,” he said. “But those are the rules and, as far as I know, we can’t change them.”

With the scalps of Chelsea and Sun­der­land safely stowed, Brad­ford be­gan the day as nar­row favourites with the book­ies.

But un­like Sun­der­land coun­ter­part Gus Poyet, Read­ing boss Clarke had done his homework and ar­rived at farm­yard Val­ley Pa­rade har­bour­ing no delu­sions of grandeur.

“I think Sun­der­land came here and thought they could play a bit of foot­ball de­spite the pitch,” Clarke said. “We de­cided we’d come here, roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and battle.”

They did too. Jamie Mackie had a great time against com­bat­ive Aussie James Mered­ith, both in­dulging in a bruis­ing battle that ref­eree Neil Swar­brick did well to con­trol.

Nathaniel Chalobah was tough and dis­ci­plined – as he had to be against the danger­ous Billy Clarke – and nei­ther Alex Pearce nor Michael Hec­tor al­lowed the tow­er­ing James Han­son much lee­way in the air.

The re­sult was a scrappy first half, though Read­ing did fash­ion the game’s best chance when Mackie square for Pavel Po­greb­nyak to prod an in­stinc­tive strike against the out­side of a post.

City then replied in kind as Gary Lid­dle’s free-kick – an at­tempted cross – evaded ev­ery­one be­fore bounc­ing away to safety.

Per­haps aware their best chance of victory was slip­ping away, the home side took a far greater grip of the game af­ter half-time. Jon Stead – who has scored in ev­ery round of the FA Cup this sea­son – was played through by Clarke, only to be de­nied by a fine Stephen Kelly lunge, while Davies pow­ered Filipe Mo­rais’ lofted free-kick nar­rowly over the bar. But for all their thrust and vigour, that one golden chance just would not drop. And af­ter Po­greb­nyak’s unspot­ted hand­ball hit a post, a blood and thun­der game got the fi­nale it de­served with a bro­ken nose for Pearce.

“It was al­ways go­ing to be mis­take or a piece of magic that set­tled the game and it never came,” said Parkin­son, now in for an emo­tional re­turn to the club who voted him their great­est ever player.

“But you have to give Read­ing credit. They ob­vi­ously looked at the Sun­der­land game, tight­ened up the mid­field and did all the ba­sics very, very well.”

BLOODY NOSE: Read­ing’s Alex Pearce re­ceives treat­ment

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

CURLER: Brad­ford City’s Filipe Mo­rais shoots at goal but the Ban­tams couldn’t find a way past Adam Fed­erici

STAR MAN STEPH

EN DARBY Bradfo

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