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Edged out of the cup

4 January 2014

Crofts' deflected effort defeats Royals

Brighton 1 (Crofts 32)
Reading 0

Andrew Crofts deflected first half strike ended the Royals' FA Cup campaign at the first hurdle as Brighton edged to a Third Round win at the Amex Stadium this afternoon.

Oscar Garcia's men dominated the first half, hitting the woodwork three times and going ahead then Crofts' right-footed drive deflected off Alex Pearce's leg and skidded into the bottom right corner just after half an hour.

But Reading bossed the second half, Peter Brezovan saving from Adam Le Fondre's deft flick and both Alfie and Jake Taylor aiming just over the crossbar late in the game.

No equaliser came their way though and Nigel Adkins' men will look to concentrate on league fixtures, starting with a trip to Watford next weekend.

Brighton: Brezovan; Calderon, Greer (c) (Dunk 65), El-Abd, Chicksen; Andrews, Crofts, Forster-Caskey; Agustien (Orlandi 63), March (Lua Lua 78), Barnes.
Subs: Ankergren, Dunk, Ward, Ulloa, Ince.
Yellow: Lua Lua.

Reading: Federici; Gunter, Kelly (Williams 72), Gorkss, Pearce; Guthrie (c), Taylor, Obita; McCleary (Pogrebnyak 84), Blackman (Drenthe 56), Le Fondre.
Subs: McCarthy, Long, Sweeney, Tanner. 
Yellow: Drenthe

Referee: Mr Foy
Att: 20,696 (2,154 away)

Adam Federici was forced into the first save of the afternoon, and a good one at that. Keith Andrews tried his luck from distance and it deflected off a Reading player and looped high towards goal. Federici backpedalled and in wet conditions did well to palm it over his crossbar.

Two minutes later, Brighton nearly profited from another slice of luck. Nick Blackman intercepted a ball forward but it cannoned off his chest and into the path of Andrews who this time struck a well-hit 20-yard effort past Federici's dive and off the top of the crossbar.

Reading began to get their foot on the ball though and on a slick surface produced some calm and composed build-up play. 18 minutes in and Garath McCleary showed his marker a clean pair of heels and crossed into the box where Adam Le Fondre almost got in front of Adam El-Abd to touch goalwards from the edge of the six yard box. But the Brighton defender managed to hack it clear at the second attempt.

But Brighton found the woodwork twice in the same move midway through the half. Solly March let rip with a powerful strike from 22 yards out and Federici produced a top drawer save to tip it against his crossbar. The ball rebounded out to Ashley Barnes 10 yards out but the striker headed against the top of the bar with the goal at his mercy.

But they got a stroke of luck to break the deadlock soon after. A dinked ball forward was chested back by Barnes and Crofts drive low at goal. It took a massive deflection off the lunging leg of Alex Pearce which took the ball beyond the reach of Federici and saw the ball skid into the bottom right corner.

Kemy Agustien delayed a shot too long to allow Stephen Kelly to block well but Brighton were looking for a second to take total command of the tie. At the other end though, Guthrie delivered a nice inswinging cross that Nick Blackman almost got on the end of it, sliding in but inches away at the far post.

Jake Taylor's deep cross from the opposite flank almost found Le Fondre in the same fashion, but Alfie could only recycle it and in the end a McCleary cross was too deep for everyone and the attack fizzled out.

And the half ended with Peter Brezovan punching clear a Guthrie corner to take a slender lead into the break.


The Royals came out full of intent after the interval and, shooting towards the visiting fans, good build-up play from Blackman saw him spread the ball out to Obita on the left and almost get on the end of the midfielder's cross into the box.

Then, Blackman fed the overlapping Gunter down the right, whose low cross was flicked goalwards by Le Fondre. But Brezovan read it and got down well to his right to save and preserve the hosts' lead.

Then, with the second half taking on a cup tie feel, Federici saved low to his left to push wide a March effort on target.

Federici was at full stretch again moments later, acrobatically pushing an arcing Agustien strike around his post.

Royston Drenthe entered the fray and scuttled in from the right to drag a left-footed shot just wide with more than an hour gone.

Brighton's substitute also came close with 20 minutes remaining, Lewis Dunk glancing a diving header wide of the bottom left corner.

Danny Williams came off the bench, then Pavel Pogrebnyak was introduced as time began to run out on the Royals'up campaign for another year.

But Adam Le Fondre had a difficult chance to snatch an equaliser when Jake Taylor swept an early ball into the box and an unmarked Alfie headed over the crossbar from 12 yards out.

And in the first of four minutes of added time, Taylor himself had a chance to level, Brighton unable to clear their lines from a cross from the left and Taylor latching onto the loose ball but skying it over Brezovan's bar.

Guthrie tried his luck from distance but never caught it well enough to trouble the Seagulls' keeper and the final whistle sounded on our FA Cup challenge.

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