NAT OUT TO END 88-YEAR WAIT!

Roy­als seek first FA Cup semi-fi­nal since 1927

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP PREVIEW - By Luke Baker

THE last time Read­ing won an FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal was in 1927 – and Nathaniel Chalobah be­lieves the Berk­shire town will grind to a halt as the Roy­als try to match that feat to­mor­row evening.

On March 5, 88 years ago, they tri­umphed 3-1 over Swansea Town – City since 1969 – at the Vetch Field to set up a semi-fi­nal at Molineux with an­other Welsh side, Cardiff City.

Read­ing would lose that tie 3-0 as Cardiff went on to lift the tro­phy at Wem­b­ley – still the only non-English team to do so – but the magic of the Cup had gripped sup­port­ers and lo­cals alike.

Cin­derella

If this year’s FA Cup run has felt slightly more low-key – away wins over fel­low Cham­pi­onship sides Hud­der­s­field, Cardiff and Derby saw Steve Clarke’s men into the quar­ter­fi­nals – then a semi-fi­nal against Ar­se­nal should cer­tainly get the juices flow­ing.

But first they must over­come this sea­son’s Cin­derella team, Brad­ford City, in to­mor­row’s re­play, some­thing they failed to do at Val­ley Pa­rade last week­end in a tense goal­less draw.

The Ban­tams had al­ready slain Pre­mier League gi­ants Chelsea and Sun­der­land in rounds four and five and, if not for the width of the post, Gary Lid­dle would have booked their place at Wem­b­ley to take on the Gun­ners.

Not that Read­ing didn’t have chances – Pavel Po­greb­nyak see­ing his right-footed ef­fort strike the post – but both sides were forced to set­tle for a draw.

While it would have been easy to get dis­tracted by the re­play in the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, Chelsea loa­nee Chalobah in­sists the Roy­als have been able to fo­cus on the job in hand, dis­pelling any lin­ger­ing con­cerns about Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tion.

A 2-1 victory over Brighton last Tues­day, be­fore yes­ter­day’s trip to Wat­ford, ap­pears to have done just that and the 20-year-old says they are now all guns blaz­ing for Brad­ford.

“Brighton was a cru­cial game to win for us,” ex­plained Chalobah. “They are be­low us, it was good to get three points and eases a bit of pres­sure off us.

“We’ve had to take it one step at a time – we fo­cused on the Wat­ford game first, then the Cup on Mon­day.

“Ev­ery­one is ex­cited about Mon­day now. Of course, the whole of Read­ing will look for­ward to that, not just us. Our fans, our fam­i­lies, ev­ery­one – but as pro­fes­sion­als we had to take it one at a time.

“We move on from Wat­ford and see how things go.”

A com­bi­na­tion of in­juries and the Brad­ford match be­ing Read­ing’s fourth in the past ten days means Clarke has been forced to re­peat­edly shuf­fle his pack in re­cent times.

Cen­tre-back Alex Pearce and Chalobah have been deal­ing with fa­cial in­juries, mid­fielder Jem Kara­can with a knee com­plaint while left­back Jure Travner has also been strug­gling, but all four are ex­pected to be fit.

Ver­sa­tile

How­ever, An­ton Fer­di­nand’s longterm calf in­jury is set to rule him out while new sign­ing Zat Knight is cup­tied af­ter ap­pear­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion for Bolton ear­lier in the sea­son.

Chalobah’s ver­sa­til­ity – he has ap­peared at cen­tre-back, left-back

and in mid­field this sea­son – has been in­valu­able for Clarke and while he prefers a more ad­vanced role, the young­ster is happy to help out wher­ever he can.

“Mid­field is my pre­ferred po­si­tion, it’s where I started off,” added Chalobah. “You’ve al­ways got to be switched on, there’s a lot go­ing on around you.

“I like to go for­ward and get goals as well, those are the rea­sons, but if the manager asks me to do a job, I’ll hap­pily do it.”

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