Reading FC may not have star players like Craig Bellamy but last night they crushed Cardiff City - here's how they did it...
The Cup Run
It can’t be coincidence. Two years in a row Reading have reached the FA Cup Quarter Final beating the likes of Liverpool, Everton and West Brom along the way. These cup runs have coincided with an upturn in league form both times. Whether it be the 7 match unbeaten run after knocking out West Brom in the 5th round last season or the 8 match winning streak after beating Everton at Goodison Park this season, the cup run clearly brought belief. Before beating Everton in the cup this season it looked like we were heading for mid table. Draws were the order of the season. Then all of the sudden winning became a habit. It’s fair to say the cup run had a big hand in that.
Brian McDermott has constantly reiterated that the success of Reading this season is down to the squad. From Shaun Cummings doing a job on the right wing against Cardiff, Alex McCarthy coming in for the injured Federici to Simon Church getting some last minute goals. McDermott regularly praised the team spirit of the squad and with different players coming in at different times and doing well it can be considered one of the real successes of the campaign. Obviously McDermott forming that squad mentality deserves praise.
Brought in during the January transfer window on loan from QPR, Leighterwood has been the catalyst for the run of form Reading have gone on since the turn of the year. He went 20 league games without defeat representing the Royals. Bringing a bit of steel and calm to a midfield and team that lacked a focal point after the £7 million transfer of Gylfi Sigurdsson to Hoffenheim at the start of the season.
Two goals against Cardiff, over twenty all season. Shane Long has delivered. Bought in 2005 for a nominal fee along with Kevin Doyle, he only started playing football seriously at the age of 16. I remember Nicky Hammond, director of football, urging the Reading fans in 2006 to give him time saying “at times the ball will come off him or he won't be sure what run to make, but the fans can take him under their wing and give him encouragement.” The Reading fans did that and now we all get to see the rewards with a strong season and a man of the match performance against Cardiff.
Craig Bellamy played just 17 minutes of the two legs due to injury. When he went off with a hamstring strain in the first leg, and was replaced with Michael Chopra, it gave Reading belief and knocked the resolve of the Cardiff players. It must have been another blow to see him not play in the second leg and can now only be considered as a ‘what if’ for Cardiff fans.
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