Looking back at some key incidents from past matchesAfter 83 years without reaching an FA Cup quarter-final, we’ve been pretty well spoilt for magic moments in recent seasons.
Twice reaching the quarter-finals under Brian McDermott – not to mention the semi-final trip to Wembley last season – have thrown up some real thrills along the way.
Here we reflect on 5 magic moments in the famous old competition from McDermott’s first spell at the club…
McAnuff’s Maradona moment – almost…
McDermott was caretaker manager when the Royals took Liverpool to a replay in the 2009/10 season – and Jobi McAnuff came close to netting one of the greatest goals that Anfield has ever witnessed. In a scene reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s wonder-goal from the 1986 World Cup, McAnuff picked off a stray pass from Alberto Aquilani deep in his own half, and took the situation by the scruff of the neck. After driving downfield, he slipped between centre-halves Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, sent the goalkeeper to ground… before placing his shot agonisingly wide of the far post. Three years later, McAnuff did manage to get an FA Cup goal for Reading at a famous venue – finding the back of the net at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
Megs! Gunnarsson provides the assist for Long
Despite McAnuff’s squandered chance, the Royals had managed to peg back the Reds’ first-half goal – it came in dramatic circumstances when Shane Long was tripped by Yossi Benayoun in the box, allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson to score from the spot in stoppage-time and send the tie to extra-time. Up stepped stand-in full-back Brynjar Gunnarsson – bursting down the right, the Icelander sold Benayoun with a Cruyff turn before slipping the ball through the legs of Emilio Insua with the calmest of nutmegs. There could be no accusation of ‘no end product’ after his tricky play; he instantly delivered a pinpoint cross for Long to head beyond Diego Cavalieri, giving Reading the advantage for the first time in the game – and ultimately the Royals’ first ever Anfield win.
Kebe makes it 1-0 after 9 seconds
McDermott’s teams have always made it their business to grab dramatic goals at the death (30 goals in the 90th minute and beyond speaks volumes) – but Jimmy Kebe scored the fastest ever Madejski Stadium goal to put the Royals ahead after just 9 seconds in the 2009/10 fifth round against West Brom. If that feat alone wasn’t enough, it was made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was the visiting Baggies that had the kick-off. Think Davide Gualtieri’s strike against England for San Marino – it was similar circumstances for Malian Kebe. Reading pressed high from the time that West Brom kicked off, and the Royals man pounced on a loose pass from Dutch defender Gianni Zuiverloon before slotting beyond Scott Carson for a record-breaking goal.
Howard’s late leveller to keep the tie alive
Former Royal Brian Howard wouldn’t ever claim to be the most prolific of goalscoring midfielders. He had a good goals-to-games ratio for Barnsley, but netted just three times in 69 Reading appearances over the course of three seasons; one of which was a late consolation in a 4-1 defeat to QPR. But he certainly had his moment in the sun in the 2009/10 season – despite Kebe’s early goal, West Brom had forced a replay from their Madejski Stadium visit, and were looking good for a place in the quarter-final from the Hawthorns fixture. A Robert Koren brace looked like it would trump Kebe’s sole strike – but Howard slammed in from close range in the third added minute to level things up and take the tie to another 30 minutes. Midfielder Sigurdsson – who had been denied by the woodwork in normal time – struck the extra-time winner to set up a date with Aston Villa.
Captain Mills seals another Merseyside win
A year later, Reading had again been drawn against West Brom in the FA Cup – it took just 90 minutes to see off the Baggies in the 2010/11 third round (two hours saved on the meeting the previous season!) Shane Long grabbed the winner in a 1-0 win, and he also netted the winner in the next round away at Stevenage after Darius Charles had cancelled out Mikele Leigertwood’s opener. That meant another trip up to Merseyside, with Everton playing host this time around. It was a nip and tuck affair at Goodison Park – but the Royals ensured that Tim Howard was the busier of the two goalkeepers. Ian Harte’s inswinging corner was met initially by the head of centre-half Mills – it was half-cleared by Leon Osman, but only back to the Royals captain who chested down and coolly struck through the crowd and into the net, for the game’s only goal. That strike set up back-to-back quarter-final appearances for Reading, and a visit to Man City.