Football: Hammond's heroics deny game Cardiff

Reading 1 Cardiff City 1 aet; score at 90 min 1-1; Reading win 4-3 on penalties
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The Independent Online
It is 64 years since Reading last reached the fifth round of the FA Cup and how they laboured before bringing that bleak run to a close last night as Cardiff, the last surviving Third Division club, took them the distance and then some more.

Suffice to say that their goalkeeper Nicky Hammond was the First Division club's hero, saving them once at the end of normal time, twice in extra time with a remarkable double save and three times in the penalty shoot out, which the Royals eventually won by virtue of sudden death. And all the while he was carrying a groin strain.

Not that Cardiff will have seen any virtue in it. Losing in such a manner was really the unkindest cut of all after the way they had taken the game to the opposition almost throughout. They would have been worthy opponents for Sheffield United in the next round.

Before the start it was questionable whether the match would last two minutes never mind two hours. It was a toss up as to which would bring it swiftly to a close: the warring fans or the freezing pitch.

Supporters clashed inside Elm Park before kick-off in a corner of the ground which was an obvious flashpoint yet not exactly generously policed and a steward, a woman, was led away in distress. Earlier in the day there had been 20 arrests.

The players had trouble keeping their feet but Cardiff settled the quicker after Jon Hallworth had pulled off a blinding save from Carl Asaba and they went ahead five minutes before half-time. Kevin Nugent put Carl Dale through with a neat flick and the striker took the ball wide of Hammond to score.

Reading were a changed side for a while after the interval and Trevor Morley was suddenly a major threat. Three minutes after the resumption he went close with a diving header and then had his reward in the 55th minute when he headed home a free-kick from Martyn Booty.

Either side could have won the game in normal time, Morley hitting a post in the 89th minute shortly after Hammond had saved with his knees from Nugent. A double save in extra time by the Reading keeper from the substitute Wayne O'Sullivan and Dale set the game up for a shoot-out in which the keeper again distinguished himself.

Reading (4-4-2): Hammond; Booty, Davies, Bernal, Swales; Williams (Hodges, 62), Parkinson, Houghton, Bowen; Morley, Asaba. Substitutes not used: Lovell, Meaker, Thorp, Ashdown (gk).

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Hallworth; Middleton, Harris, Young, Beech; Carss, Eckhardt (Jarman, 65), Penney, O'Sullivan; Nugent, Dale. Substitutes not used: Saville, Fowler, White, Stoker (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).