Bradford and Reading face an FA Cup quarter-final replay
Just 48 hours recovery time
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
CURLER: Bradford City’s Filipe Morais shoots at goal but the Bantams couldn’t find a way past Adam Federici
STAR MAN STEPH
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