|Derby County||1||Stephen Warnock sent off 39, Darren Bent 61|
|Reading||2||Hal Robson-Kanu 53, Yakubu Aiyegbeni 82|
Derby County are out of the FA Cup at the Fifth Round stage beaten by a late goal from substitute Yakubu after a performance that was both entertaining and admirable playing, as we did, against the odds for 50 minutes.
Steve McClaren made seven changes from the team that drew 2-2 at Bournemouth, two of them enforced, with Kelle Roos, Ryan Shotton, Stephen Warnock, Craig Bryson, Simon Dawkins, Jesse Lingard and Darren Bent coming in for the injured Chris Martin, the cup-tied Tom Ince and the rested Lee Grant, Jake Buxton, Craig Forsyth, Will Hughes and Jamie Ward.
On the bench for the first time this season was George Thorne who received an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd both when he first appeared pre-match and also whenever he warmed up throughout the game. Unfortunately the way the game panned out our returning midfield linchpin never got the chance to play but his presence in the match day squad is a big boost.
The team selection meant Rams debuts for Warnock and Lingard after their arrival in the January transfer window though they were debuts of contrasting fortunes for the two players.
Warnock never made it to his half time orange (or gel sachet, to be more modern) as he collected his second yellow card on 39 minutes and left us down to ten men for the remainder of the game.
There were howls of outrage from around the ground when Craig Pawson dismissed Warnock but, in truth, our full back had left the referee little option as he went barrelling into ex Red Dog Jamie Mackie (as he himself acknowledged in a post match Tweet).
That is not to say that the referee had a good game – he reached for the yellow cards too quickly and this created a tension the game did not warrant.
It was interesting to see both teams substituting players who had been booked which felt like a defensive response to a refereeing performance that verged into “look at me” territory (In marked comparison to the performance of Mark Clattenburg on Tuesday night it should be noted)
The Rams were always up against it in this game from the moment that Warnock was dismissed but it was a brave and sterling effort and hard to see the evidence for which team had ten men as the game went on.
Steve McClaren explained afterwards that a replay was the last thing we wanted in a crowded fixture schedule and rather than try and close the game out after we equalised we continued on the attack which made for an exciting game but also left the door open for Reading to counter attack.
This was a Reading team much changed in performance if not personnel since Steve Clarke was appointed manager and their fielding of a first choice eleven reflected the fact that, drifting in mid table as they are, this game was a much higher priority for them than us.
We started the game well and a lovely move involving Lingard, Dawkins and Bent in the first two minutes played in Craig Bryson who forced a good save from Adam Federici.
The Reading keeper also made a superb instinctive save from Darren Bent in the first half when the striker turned and shot sharply as well as a great save from substitute Jamie Ward in the second half as we made a number of chances.
We were fortunate though that the other former Forest player on the pitch for the Royals, Simon Cox, is such a poor finisher as he missed two golden chances in the first half alone.
Reading took the lead from a neat finish from Hal Robson-Kanu early in the second half but we took only eight minutes to equalise.
Craig Forsyth (brought on for Omar Mascarell after Warnock’s dismissal) ranged forward and his cross was received by Jesse Lingard, who looked sharp, quick and creative on debut, and his shot hit Darren Bent and deflected in. Very much right man in the right place at the right time for our loan striker with his fifth goal for us.
We continued to push on for what would have been a gutsy winner but were caught on the break late in the game as Yakubu, on as a substitute after signing this week for the Royals as a free agent, was played in between Shotton & Forsyth and held off our left back to fire past Roos from the edge of the area.
Yakubu is one of those players (akin to Billy Sharp & David Nugent) who have a bad habit of scoring against us and those Rams with particularly long memories will remember John Gregory trying to sign him as a 19yr old for Derby back in the day but being unable to do so because of work permit issues.
Away from the iPro the most significant result for us was Bournemouth’s 1-1 home draw with Huddersfield which put them back top but must have felt like a disappointment for them.
Elsewhere Ipswich, Watford and Norwich all won which leaves the top six looking tighter again. We travel to Rotherham on Tuesday night to play a team hitting some form but with a big incentive to come back with the three points. – COYR.