Thankfully, in freezing temperatures, City found some New Year resolution and finally warmed to the task to blast away the Royals in the second period as goals by Ross McCormack profiting from The Royals hilarious offside trap and a classy Joe Ledley effort put City into the 4th Round Draw and recalled last season's glorious exploits with Ali playing our Cup Final song at final whistle and fans leaving chanting, "we're going to Wem-ber-lee". We can dream eh but, after last year, why not?
Reading once again showed the F.A. Cup effectively sending out a reserve side so it was pleasing that got what they deserved. The Championship is vitally important but I cannot understand Steve Coppell's attitude as their side of Federici, Murty-Bikey-Pearce-Kelly; Matejovsky-Convey- Karacan-Henry; Lita-Long recorded no fewer than 8 changes to the last league line up and he didn't even bother including the likes of Duberry, the Hunt brothers, Doyle and Harper amongst the substitutes.
The 6 days that elapsed from last Sunday's Championship win over Plymouth and did not go to plan for City as Chops, despite wishing to stay, was recalled by Sunderland and Routledge, despite previously telling City to stay too, drove away from South Wales the day before the game without a goodbye and getting up the M4 to sign for QPR who have the backing to pay him an over the top salary. They were blows as nobody can deny their impact it should be remembered that they came to cover injuries to Ledley, Bothroyd, McCormack and Whittingham who were all available again and we were doing pretty well before their arrival. For me, the real key to City's improved standards anyway was breaking up that midfield partnership of Rae and McPhail and, once again, Joe Ledley was there to show a new dimension.
In contrast to his opposite number, and a pleasant surprise to City fans, Dave Jones named what is currently his first choice side with Enckleman; McNaughton-Johnson-Gypes-Kennedy; Bothroyd-McCormack. Some of those squad personnel maybe hoping to start had to settle for their now regular place on a packed bench with 7 subs allowed in the F.A. Cup - Purse, McPhail, Scimeca, Comminges, Heaton, Blake and Capaldi. Only 1 got any action all watched on by Scott Young, goal winning hero of the legendary Leeds slaying of 7 years ago, as he chomped on a mega-burger in the box between Canton Stand and Bob Bank.
Prices were reduced and many fans normally in the stands, like myself took the opportunity to take to the terraces for what may turn out to be the final time. £10 on the Bob Bank was excellent value and filled that area but there was parking room elsewhere as a crowd of 12,500 was announced. The close up view of Joe Ledley's incredible work and work-rate only increased my appreciation of the job the new skipper is performing in centre midfield. However with no bar to retire into at half-time, I was even more appreciative of my schnapps hip flask which equally effective.
That first half had the aesthetic beauty of a Woollies' closing down sale. City fans started in good voice and found the time to start up a shout of "Routledge, you're a w*nker" which had Reading's number respond with the very predictable "Where's your Routledge gone?" but as the cold set in and the football was as numb, there was little to report expect City being denied the most blatant penalty of the season. There was no excuse for the ref and Bob Bank lino to miss the man mountain Bikey, sent off at Ninian in November, punch the ball in the box. He was even wearing O. J. Simpson stylee black gloves ... maybe they thought gloves meant he was in the goalkeeper. However Reading will point out their glaring miss as the ball was worked to Shane Long in front of goal but he produced the most glaring miss from 10 yards, almost slicing the ball to the corner flag which was funny.
Cardiff weren't incisive enough, too many flicks, not enough directness, pace and trickery. Parry had the beating of his right back but seemed loathe to show it although City should have done better with one cross that somehow missed everyone while McCormack was easing himself back into affairs after his lay off. Most City fans spent the final portion of the half talking to one another just to pass the time. Cardiff, minus Routledge and Chops playing off the shoulder of the last man, remain a very useful unit indeed but clearly have lost the cutting edge pace they previously contained.
Half-time: CITY 0 READING 0
The sun went down, temperatures fell to freezing or below and, although not noticeable on the eye, the pitch was hardening. A plane high in the sky behind the Canton Stand zig-zagged. I was so cold, I couldn't even think properly and shouted out, "that plane driver must be pissed". Plane driver?!?! However Cardiff came back determined to play football and finally, attacking towards the Grange End, take the game to their opponents but not before immediate scares as Enckleman produced a good low save and an edge of area free-kick was hit into the wall.
The key to City assertiveness was McCormack now hitting his stride and making telling runs and passes while City took a grip in centre midfield with Ledley's driving runs and Rae, who had a strong first half, starting to take control. A McCormack touch made Bikey look a fool and he exacted revenge earning a yellow card but also gifting the free-kick that sent City on their way.
The ball was centre of field 35 yards out but Reading's defence was lamentable and laughable as Whittingham's flick was met by Reading's "charge"(?) with key culprit Murty - once bad enough to link with England but now good enough to be a Reading reserve - moving out slower than a drunk at closing time, leaving 4 Cardiff players yards onside. Roger Johnson brought the ball down and look set to shoot from an angle but he took his time and intelligently lofted the ball across goal past Federici enabling McCORMACK to head home from 8 yards for his 15th of the season. Goals really don't come any simpler than that.
All City needed to do now was ensure it wasn't 1-0 so Federici could come up for a last minute corner and revive a bad Boxing Day memory. Having been leading Reading in both Championship games in the past 6 weeks but being pegged back for draws, they made sure it was third time lucky and put Reading to the sword. Bothroyd and Parry fired wide, McCormack cut past two defenders but shot wide of the far post then Murty, now having a hapless time, sliced Rae's cross under pressure and was denied an o.g. by the top of the crossbar.
Reading used all three subs including Under 21 star Simon Church being warmly greeted by chants of "Wales, Wales, Wales" in recognition of his recent efforts for the Red Dragon and City removed Bothroyd for the final 15 minutes, the striker appeared to be carrying a knock all second half. Dave Jones brought on Steve McPhail for his first home showing since his stupid 2nd red card of the season at Swansea, his appearance produced a few boos amongst the rather reserved cheers and applause. City moved Joe to wide left, Parry up front but it didn't disrupt and although centre mid looked slower immediately with Rae and McPhail, the Irishman was seen to be making forward passes, oh the novelty of it.
Gypes had to clear one effort off the line and generally turned in a powerful man of the match display winning headers, challenges and either stepping up or wrapping a leg in front of forwards to win ball after ball although he does get turned a touch easily once the ball is on the deck.
Any lingering doubts went in the final 10 minutes with the game's best move as City ripped Reading open through the middle from their own half as Kennedy, in one touch, brought the ball down and found McPhail, his flick beat a man and helped it to Joe and then a one-two with McCormack saw LEDLEY get beyond the last man, take a touch and then scoop the ball beyond the advancing and porkmeister that was Federici in goals. A beautifully crafted goal beautifully celebrated too but still no joy in the season long quest for a third goal although, again, they had the chances to do that.
It was a game on one half but I certainly enjoyed that second 45 minute spell. Reading can concentrate on the league only, exactly as Coppell wanted. Personally, I'm really not sure myself how beneficial it is doing nothing in 3 weekends time. As they got relegated last year, it did them no favours then. It would be justice if they miss out again this time, better still if it is to City.
Ross McCormack steered Cardiff City through to the fourth round of the FA Cup against Reading.
Scottish striker McCormack put last season's finalists on the road to Wembley again with a close-range header in the 57th minute.
Cardiff captain Joe Ledley added a second with seven minutes remaining to sink their Championship rivals at Ninian Park.
Bluebirds boss Dave Jones made two changes with the fit-again Peter Whittingham and McCormack returning to the side after Michael Chopra and Wayne Routledge ended their loan spells.
While Royals manager Steve Coppell signalled his intention on securing promotion back to the Premier League by making eight changes and rested stars Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and James Harper.
The hosts dominated the early possession but failed to test Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici, who bizarrely scored a last-gasp equaliser in the league encounter on Boxing Day.
Reading came closest to the opener on 16 minutes when Bobby Convey sliced wide from the penalty spot after James Henry's incisive cross.
Cardiff hit back and had a strong penalty claim turned down by referee Anthony Taylor ten minutes later when Andre Bikey appeared to handle Whittingham's cross, with Jay Bothroyd ready to pounce.
The opening period petered out but Reading should have broken the deadlock within 60 seconds of the re-start through Shane Long, but Cardiff goalkeeper Peter Enckleman blocked out the Irishman's close-range shot following Convey's neat cross.
Bikey was booked for a trip on McCormack and the Scottish striker made the Cameroon international pay dearly from the free-kick.
Reading pushed out for offside from Whittingham's deep free-kick but Roger Johnson's late arrival into the box caught the visitors napping.
The centre-back squared to McCormack who headed home his 15th goal of the season.
McCormack nearly doubled the lead after 63 minutes but his toe-poke flew wide of the post.
Cardiff were in the ascendancy and two minutes later Reading midfielder Jem Karacan was lucky to see his volley crash against his own crossbar from Whittingham's cross.
But Jones' men made the game safe when Ledley's cool finish beat Federici after a simple one-two with McCormack.
Cardiff City Official Website
Wales On Sunday
Reading Official Website