Match Report: Clinical Reading wipe out Adams' early opener for Crawley

Crawley 1 Reading 3

broadfield stadium

There was a shock result at the Broadfield
Stadium yesterday - Reading won. Well, that was certainly the way the Crawley
Town supporters saw it, chanting for their manager, Richie Barker, to
"sort it out" as their team trailed 3-1 in the second half. These are
fans, in case you (or they) have forgotten, who were watching non-League
football only two years ago.

It reflects the heightened expectations of their followers that they feel a team in eighth place in League One ought to be able to beat a struggling Premier League club. However, the FA Cup was unable to work that piece of magic yesterday, with the finishing of Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt proving the difference between the teams after Crawley had taken the lead after only 14 seconds.

"I don't know how much it would cost to buy them but it wouldn't be cheap," Barker said. "Expectations here are ridiculous. You can't educate some people. One day when I'm gone, people will realise how well I've done. I know Gary Alexander won't mind me saying this, but f I could swap him for Adam Le Fondre then I would do and the faster people round here realise that, the better."

Victories have not been easy to come by for Reading this season, so any reminder of how it feels to walk off the field as winners was welcome. "It was just about trying to get a result and doing the basics as well as we could – which we didn't do in the first 14 seconds," their manager, Brian McDermott, said. "You just have to react and I thought the reaction from the players was good. It has turned out to be an okay day."

He made seven changes to the team beaten 3-1 by Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, with Ian Harte wearing the captain's armband for the first time in a long and distinguished career of over 400 games. It did not begin well, the Irishman presenting the ball to Nicky Adams on the right. He cut inside and hit a left-foot shot that arched over Adam Federici and in, to the delight of the majority of a record crowd.

Federici was caught out for that one, but saved his team after nine minutes, leaping to tip central defender Joe Walsh's header over the crossbar, and a minute later Reading levelled. Garath McCleary cleverly controlled his volleyed pass from the right to Le Fondre, who had hung back as the Crawley defenders raced back and had all the time and space he needed to place a first-time shot low past Paul Jones' left hand.

Federici again saved well, this time from Billy Clarke, before Reading went ahead three minutes before the interval. Again McCleary was the creator, cutting the ball back for Hunt to volley in at the near post.

The Reading supporters expressed their surprise at seeing their team ahead away from home, and it got even better in the 49th minute when the referee, Anthony Taylor, deemed Walsh's challenge on Hunt a foul, Le Fondre converting the penalty with relish. "It looked like Joe got the ball," Barker said. "I believe the referee has made a mistake."

Crawley were stunned, but recovered without ever looking as if they could close the gap, with only long-range efforts from Adams and Mat Sadler forcing saves from Federici.

"I'm disappointed," Barker said. "I think we deserved more out of the game than we got. We had chances, but the goalkeeper pulled off two or three good saves. To put him under as much pressure as we did speaks volumes for the players."

Crawley (4-4-2): P Jones; Hunt (Akinde, 82), Connolly, Walsh, Sadler; Adams, Simpson, Akpan, M Jones (Elford-Alliyu, 68); Clarke, Alexander.

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Cummings, Morrison, Pearce, Harte; McCleary (Gunter, 85), Karacan (Guthrie, 68), Tabb, Robson-Kanu; Hunt, Le Fondre.

Man of the match: Anthony Taylor

Referee: McCleary (Reading).

Match rating: 7/10

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