Cheltenham Town 1
What looked for a long time like a battle of the golden oldies at Elm Park last night was eventually settled by a swing of the right foot from Martyn Booty. Cheltenham's FA Cup run was finally ended, leaving Stevenage as the only non-League representatives in the fourth round.
As Cheltenham lie second in the Vauxhall Conference with a real chance of Third Division football next season, they really will be more than happy to concentrate on the league from now on.
After being 19 minutes away from victory at home a week ago, Cheltenham knew their best chance had probably gone, but for much of the evening they more than matched their First Division opponents. Before Trevor Morley's 38th-minute opener, a low right-footed shot past Steve Book, Cheltenham had, in fact, created the best chances, both falling to Dale Watkins, their scorer in the first game from the penalty spot.
But although Watkins tested Nicky Hammond with his second effort at least, the 36-year-old Morley, whose equaliser had set up this third round replay, made Cheltenham pay for their profligacy. The stage seemed set for Reading to assert their supposed superiority in the second half but Cheltenham hit back almost immediately. Clive Walker, now 40 and a veteran of more FA Cup campaigns than there are hairs on his head, side-footed home after Watkins' cross had been nodded down by Jason Eaton.
The West Countrymen, roared on by a healthy contingent of travelling fans, began to look dangerous on the break with Watkins and Eaton both going close. But as in the first half, Reading scored just when they needed to, Booty drilling past Book from the edge of the penalty area.
Reading flirted with disaster in the closing stages as Jamie Victory fired through a crowd of players only to see his shot come back off the upright and Eaton directed the rebound straight at Hammond. Chris Banks shot agonisingly wide with five minutes to go, but Reading held on and despite their poor overall performance they should fancy their chances at Cardiff on Saturday.
For Cheltenham, meanwhile, the next stop is Enfield in the FA Trophy tomorrow before a well-earned five-day break in the Algarve starting on Sunday.
Reading (4-4-2): Hammond; Booty, Davies (Thorp, 59), Bernal, Swales; Bowen, Parkinson, Hodges (Houghton, 68), Lambert; Morley, Lovell. Substitutes not used: Caskey, Meaker, Bibbo (gk).
Cheltenham Town (5-2-1-2): Book; Duff, Freeman, Banks, Victory, Benton (Wright, 78); Crisp (Milton, 87), Bloomer; Walker (Knight, 59); Watkins, Eaton. Substitutes not used: Smith, Teague.
Referee: K Leach (Wolverhampton).