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16:41 7th March 2010

Report: Royals go down fighting

Reading 2 (Long 27, 42)
Aston Villa 4 (A Young 47, Carew 51, 55, 90 (pen))

Reading's fantastic and historic run in this season's FA Cup came to an end after a heartbreaking game of two halves against Aston Villa, one of the best teams in the country.

Shane Long's brace gave Reading a fully deserved 2-0 lead at the break, and we could even have been further ahead on the balance of the first 45 minutes' play.

But Villa's quality showed very quickly after the break, and three goals in ten minutes put Martin O'Neill's men in front; Ashley Young getting the first and John Carew scoring two.

We pushed for an equaliser, Ivar Ingimarsson seeing a header cleared off the line and Villa hacking away in a couple of goalmouth scrambles, but it was not to be.

Carew won and converted a penalty in injury time to give the scoreline a rather unjust feel, and that strike was very harsh on our players and fans. Their efforts did not deserve that.

The players have given absolutely everything in the past few months, securing an excellent FA Cup run and taking us to the top of the Coca-Cola Championship form table.

Our supporters once again saw the effort Brian McDermott's team had put in, and stayed behind to applaud our players off the pitch after another incredible game.

It has been a historic campaign - the best in the Madejski Stadium era - and momentous wins over Liverpool, Burnley and West Brom will live long in the memory as we now look to maintain our good League form and continue our climb up the Coca-Cola Championship table.

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Bertrand, Ingimarsson (c), Mills; Howard (Gunnarsson 59), Tabb; Kebe, Church (Rasiak 71), Sigurdsson; Long
Subs: Hamer, Pearce, Matejovsky, Henry, Robson-Kanu
Booked: Sigurdsson (dissent 58), Tabb (foul 75)

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Warnock, Collins, Dunne; Milner, Petrov (c), A Young, Downing (Sidwell 90); Carew, Heskey
Subs: Guzan, Beye, L Young, Albrighton, Delph, Delfouneso
Booked: Dunne (25). Young (dissent 40), Collins (foul 48), Milner (foul 84)

Attendance: 23,175 (4,230 away)

Referee: M Dean

First half
Reading started with vim and vigour, and were not about to let their Premier League opposition settle on this bright and breezy FA Cup quarter final day.

Jimmy Kebe had a goal disallowed on the ten minute mark, and it looked the right decision as Mike Dean punished Simon Church for a push on Stephen Warnock; albeit a light contact in the small of the defender's back.

Kebe was proving a real thorn in Villa's side, and another cracking break from the Malian down the right very then so nearly put Shane Long in for a good chance.

On 14 minutes Villa had their best - and only - real chance of the first half. John Carew's muscle saw him work space down the right, and Emile Heskey made a cracking run down the middle. If the Norwegian's pass had been better then his strike partner had a great chance, but he overhit the ball and the opportunity passed by.

Reading were soon back on top though and increasing the pressure on Brad Friedel's goal. A Brian Howard free kick caused problems inside the Villa area and Matt Mills' header created a real scramble, Friedel eventually palming out for a corner under no real pressure.

From the resulting set piece Jay Tabb unleashed a superb volley that looked goalbound until Richard Dunne got a head on it - and our pressure was then to tell from the resulting corner. Brian Howard took an outswinger that Mills flicked on for Shane Long to head home from three yards - no more than we deserved for an excellent start to the game.

John Carew soon had the ball in the net for Villa - but it was rightly not allowed to stand. Carew was actually onside when the set piece was taken, but that was only because James Collins was fouling Long and thereby keeping the Norewgian onside inside the penalty area.

A great Reading move then saw Gylfi Sigurdsson come close to a second, only a Dunne block keeping out his goalbound shot from ten yards.

We kept up the pressure as the interval approached, and deservedly got a second goal, again Kebe vital in the piece. Sigurdsson won the ball and released our Malian down the right, and he was away. He showed great awareness to pick out Long in a great position, and the in-form striker made no mistake. It was a great team goal, and we fully deserved our two-goal advantage as the half time whistle came.

Second half
If Villa were completely second best for the first half, they suddenly came out for the second period looking like a team with Champions League ambitions and top four quality. Their pace and ability to get the ball wide and deliver crosses simply proved too hot to handle and they scored three goals in the space of just ten minutes.

The first was created down the left and a skidding cross just evaded a number of defenders before falling to Ashley Young for a close range finish. Villa had been given a lifeline, and Carew should have done better soon after but miscued a volley from a corner.

Just five minutes later Carew did have a goal, heading home from six yards as Stewart Downing delivered a cracking cross. Then six minutes later Carew did it again, putting in a neat finish after Warnock overlapped and delivered a good low cross. Suddenly the game had turned.

Midway through the period Heskey had a golden chance to put the game out of sight, going clean through on goal. But Adam Federici was not overawed and did exceptionally well to stand up and make the save.

The three goals had understandably rocked us, but we then began to get our composure and Ivar Ingimarsson saw a goalbound header cleared off the line by Young.

Moments later sub Grzegorz Rasiak tried his luck with a decent volley, but Friedel was always behind it.

At this stage, Villa looked happy to run the clock down and could not be hurried into any set play or throw-in.

With five minutes to go another Sigurdsson delivery caused Friedel problems, and he could only palm away Ingimarsson's header, Collins having to hack clear.

Reading were looking for a way back into the game, but Villa just looked too resolute and dogged.

A minute into injury time Carew won a penalty after being fouled by Ingimarsson, and he slammed it home to take home the matchball and give the scoreline an unjust feel.

Our supporters rightly sang 'we love you Reading' even as the fourth goal went in, and it has been a truly remarkable cup run under Brian McDermott's leadership.

Defeat was of course very difficult to take, but we can be very proud of our team for their fantastic efforts in this season's FA Cup, as well as their upturn in the Championship.

Our heroics against Liverpool, Burnley and West Brom will never be forgotten - and we were so close to more glory this time around but Villa just proved too good on the day.

A full post-match video interview with Brian McDermott and five minutes of match highlightsare available now on our official online TV station Reading FC Player. Sign up today and get a 14-day trial absolutely free.

    Data provided by Press Association