NAT OUT TO END 88-YEAR WAIT!
Royals seek first FA Cup semi-final since 1927
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.
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.
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.”