Saturday’s opponents will still be on a high come the weekend after their dramatic last-gap win at Anfield this evening. A last minute penalty for the Royals took the tie to extra time, in which a Shane Long header – his first goal of the season – was enough to see the Championship side deservedly ease past Liverpool to claim a fourth round tie with Burnley. Massive congratulations are due to them!
Of course, this is nothing compared to the monumental achievement that happened a bit closer to home whilst Forest were playing at St. Andrews. Such drama, and such excitement occurred at Pride Park that our wooly neighbours are able to avail themselves of a DVD of their spectacular and unexpected triumph via penalty shootout over… Millwall! It will come in handy for the 23,000 or so Derby fans who didn’t make it to the game.
So, anyway, back on topic. Tonight’s was Reading’s first win under their caretaker boss – he’s been rather a 1-1 specialist over 90 minutes, Reading rarely fail to score, but even more so fail to concede. It’s been a tough season so far for the Royals – they find themselves just above the relegation zone, below Derby even. They’ve only won five games – tellingly, four of them away from the Madejski Stadium.
I expect familiar faces to be restored by Forest – McKenna, Wilson, Shorey, McKenna and Blackstock should almost certainly be back – and Billy also has the options of restoring Majewski, Anderson and possibly Earnie who is back in training according to his Twitter feed. Whether Billy opts for the 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 approach will probably hinge on Earnie’s fitness, and of course what he thinks will work best to unlock Reading.
The Royals have demonstrated tonight they have a sting in their tail – McAnuff was certainly the standout player for them, and could have capped off the evening with one of the best goals of the FA Cup for some time. The midfielder picked up the ball in his own half and jinked into the box past numerous Liverpool defenders and just placing his shot wide.
So an intriguing encounter. Personally I think Billy’s approach for the cup game was right – and despite succumbing to defeat at Birmingham I don’t think confidence will be dented as the less frequent players put in a more than credible performance and were unfortunate to lose. We still have a hefty unbeaten league run to defend – and I’m sure Billy will have the boys well drilled.
We of course also have had additional recovery time – key players have had over a week, even those who featured at Birmingham have had an extra day – and no additional drain of extra time. So can our fresh-legged Reds overcome the slightly more tired visitors after their Lord Mayor’s show? It doesn’t always work like that, but I wasn’t sorry to see their game go to extra time!
Perhaps what they do lack is pace up front – whilst Rasiak has a decent enough record against us, our defence has looked solid against aerial assaults, so it’s through their tricky midfielders and wingers that Reading will be more likely to do us damage. It promises to be a tough game, I think, but on our day we can beat anybody – certainly I honestly think Reading will think us a more daunting opponent than a second-half Liverpool sans Torres and Gerrard.
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