Crawley Town 1 (Adams 1)
Reading 3 (Le Fondre 13, 48 Hunt 43)
The Royals comfortably booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup despite an early scare at the Broadfield Stadium.
Nicky Adams gave the Red Devils a sensational early lead in the first 20 seconds, cutting inside before lashing a superb strike past Adam Federici from distance.
However Reading responded admirably in difficult conditions – Adam Le Fondre finishing smartly from Garath McCleary’s clever cutback, before Noel Hunt gave his side the lead before the break by sweeping home another McCleary cross.
The game was wrapped up early in the second half as Hunt was clumsily brought down in the box, allowing Le Fondre to emphatically slam home from 12 yards to avoid any upset against the League One outfit.
Crawley Town: P Jones, Sadler, Connolly, Akpan, Clarke, Alexander (C), Simpson, Walsh, Hunt (Akinde 81), Adams, M Jones (Elford-Alliyu 67)
Subs: Kuipers, Byrne, Cooper, Bulman, Torres
Reading: Federici, Harte (C), Cummings, Pearce, Morrison, Tabb, Karacan (Guthrie 58), McCleary (Gunter 84), Robson-Kanu, Hunt, Le Fondre
Subs: Taylor, Shorey, Mariappa, Church, Ugwu
Booked: Cummings (Diving 72)
Attendance: 5880 (1955 away)
It was a record crowd at the Broadfield Stadium, as with a couple of thousand Royals fans in good voice as the match kicked off.
However, remarkably – it was the home fans who exploded into live within the first few seconds as Crawley Town took the lead.
A long ball was chested down by Ian Harte, but Nicky Adams pounced on the loose ball before jinking inside and sending an unstoppable drive past Federici. It was an outstanding strike and a nasty early shock for the visitors.
Town continued to look lively, as Adams tried from a similar distance five minutes later, only to curl his effort past the post, whilst Federici did brilliantly to tip Joe Walsh’s header over the bar.
However Brian McDermott’s men wouldn’t have to wait long for parity. A wonderful cross from Harte was guided back across goal by Garath McCleary, where Adam Le Fondre was waiting to emphatically smash home.
Heartened by that strike, the Royals poured forward again – with Noel Hunt’s stinging strike well palmed away by Paul Jones.
Karacan and Le Fondre both blazed long range efforts over the bar in the next ten minutes, as the game settled down and the blue and white hoops began to find a foothold in the match.
There was an opening at the other end for the Red Devils, but a snapshot from the edge of the box was well held by Federici, whilst the Australian showed great bravery to dive and block at the feet of Billy Clarke moments later.
But once again the Royals would hit back, and indeed take the lead two minutes before the break.
A neat team move ended in some wing wizardry from McCleary, who notched up his second assist of the game as he cutback for Hunt to sweep home.
The Royals started the second half brightly – Hunt’s cross from the right was flicked on by Karacan, and came within inches of falling for Le Fondre are the far post before dropping wide.
Seconds later referee Anthony Taylor was pointing to the spot, as Hunt scampered through on goal before being clipped inside the box by Joe Walsh.
Le Fondre it was who stepped up, and emphatically lashed home from 12 yards to give his side some much needed breathing space.
It certainly seemed to kill the spirits of Crawley, with McDermott’s men controlling the next twenty minutes of the game.
Josh Simpson tried to liven up the increasingly silent home crowd, but sliced off target from 25 yards when presented with a half chance from outside the box.
Shaun Cummings went down in the box in the 78th minute with the Royals right back screaming for a penalty, but was aghast as the referee decided to give the foul the other way – and caution the former Chelsea man for diving.
At the other end Federici was alert again to palm over a dipping strike from just outside the box, as Town’s hopes of some FA Cup magic continued to dwindle.
That’s not to say that Reading’s goalkeeper hadn’t earned his corn for the day – as he pulled off another smart save in the 81st minute from Mat Sadler.
Adams flashed wide for the home side with an admirable effort from a tight angle, but in truth McDermott’s men were seeing the tie out in solid fashion.
Le Fondre was sniffing a hat-trick in the dying stages, as he controlled an up and under in the dying stages before dipping a strike over the bar, whilst Noel Hunt forced a smart stop out of Jones in stoppage time.