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How our Academy graduates contributed to FA Cup upsets…

31 January 2017

A round-up of how current and former Royals made waves

The FA Cup is renowned for its drama, its upsets… and that’s all part of its ‘magic’.

This year has been no exception.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get the better of Manchester United at Old Trafford, but many of our current and former players which came through our Academy ranks at Hogwood have been part of some of this year’s cup stories.

So here’s a round-up of who has done what!

Defender Jake Cooper marked his home debut for Millwall with a clean sheet against Premier League opponents Millwall, as Steve Morison’s sole goal was enough to send the Lions into the fifth round of the competition.

The centre-half was eligible to feature for the League 1 outfit as he was an unused sub when we made our Old Trafford trip.  And so he was drafted in at the Den for their Sunday lunchtime meeting with the Hornets and tasked with keeping the top-tier side at bay.

With five minutes remaining, it looked like the Royals loanee’s efforts were going to reward the East London club with a replay at Vicarage Road – but instead Morison went one better by volleying in past Heurelho Gomes for the game’s only goal.

The reward for Cooper and the Lions is a home tie against the winner of the replay between Derby and Leicester.

An even bigger mismatch was Lincoln City’s home fixture with Championship leaders Brighton & Hove Albion, in which Sean Long came on as a late sub to secure a quite remarkable victory for the non-League side.

While Lincoln are enjoying an eye-catching campaign which saw them knock out Ipswich in the previous round and currently sit on top of the National League, they were facing a strong squad from the Seagulls, who top the Championship at present.

And they had to come from behind to seal the win as well – Richard Towell had the visitors ahead at the break.  Remarkably an Alan Power penalty and a Fikayo Tomori own-goal turned the tie on its head just past the hour mark, and Theo Robinson sealed a 3-1 win late on.  Long, a late sub, helped seal the win.

Now, the Imps face Burnley at Turf Moor with a place in the quarter-final at stake.

Derby against Leicester hasn’t often been considered a mismatch – indeed the Rams have secured passage on each of the other two times that the East Midlands rivals have met in the famous old competition.

But with Championship outfit Derby hosting the reigning Premier League champions at Pride Park on Friday night, it was the visitors who went into game as favourites.  Alex Pearce, another Reading Academy graduate, had the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Demarai Gray to contend with.

Darren Bent accidentally turned into his own net to hand Leicester the lead, before squaring things up at the right end soon after.  Craig Bryson had the hosts in front, but it was a Leicester defender in the form of Wes Morgan that squeezed in an equaliser with just a few minutes left.

So Pearce and the Rams will do it all over again at the King Power Stadium soon – their prize, should they win, would be a visit to the Den to meet Millwall.

But undoubtedly the upset of the round belonged to Sutton United and former Royals scholar Daniel Spence, as the U’s claimed an unlikely scalp in Championship side Leeds United.

The London club, newly-promoted to the National League last summer, have history in this competition… indeed it was Leeds that ended their previous best run in the competition at the same stage in 1970 with a 6-0 win, which was arguably surpassed in terms of achievement when then top-tier club Coventry City were downed 2-1 in the third round in 1989.

However, a 1-0 home win against Garry Monk’s men must surely top the lot.  Left-back Spence, who learned his trade at Hogwood, was able to keep the likes of Souleymane Doukara and Marcus Antonsson quiet enough at one end, while captain Jamie Collins buried a penalty to seal a remarkable victory.

The reward for Spence and his U’s teammates for a victory against the Whites is the first ever fifth round appearance in their club’s long history – and it could hardly be a more imagination-grabbing tie, with Arsenal set to visit Gander Green Lane.

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