This season’s FA Cup has been full of upsets, but the biggest upset of all for Reading FC fans will be if they lose to Bradford in the replay next Monday. Bradford’s story started in the 1st Round and since then they have picked up famous victories against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Sunderland at Valley Parade. Both wins were momentous both financially and historically.
But, for Reading FC fans a win against Bradford would be a historic win, as it would take Reading into the semi finals for the first time since 1927. The league form this year has been inconsistent and with promotion or relegation unlikely the FA cup has become a priority for many Reading fans.
The stakes have increased since the semi-final cup draw, as either giant-killers Bradford or Reading will play the holders of the cup, Arsenal. What an occasion that will be for either side! Also, the game is a sell out with tickets being sold within a few days as the anticipation around the area builds to a huge night at the Madejski Stadium.
The game at Valley Parade was far from the entertaining football we see from the Premier League games with multi-million pound footballers displaying their class. But, it was a tie for the whole-hearted football fans with both sides putting in 100% effort in an attempt to reach the semi-finals. The replay will be similar, but both sides will be able to play much more expansive football thanks to the condition of the pitch at the Madejski Stadium – in contrast to the Valley Parade pitch. The home crowd will be expecting a win with lower league opposition the final FA cup hurdle before a potential date with Wembley for the first time since a play-off final defeat in 2011.
With Reading playing on Saturday, we should expect some squad juggling. The away game on Saturday against Watford could be a perfect opportunity for Steve Clarke to use the youth with players such as Kuhl, Keown, Griffin, Long, Edwards, Stacey, Novakovich or Sweeney. I mention these players specifically, because they were left out of the U21 game vs. Middlesbrough. Possibly Clarke has decided to view the league game vs. Watford as a chance to rest his first team for the FA cup.
The Reading supporters will expect Reading to attack Bradford from the start, which will see slight changes to the team that played Bradford last weekend. For instance, Chris Gunter will probably replace Kelly at right back. One player who will remain in the starting XI is Reading’s February player of the month Jamie Mackie who scored a brace against Brighton on Tuesday.
It will be an interesting tie and on a chilly Monday night in Reading the atmosphere will heat up the occasion, as the Reading fans will find their voices. Both sides will hope this will not be the final chapter of a successful story so far.