Wembley dream still alive for Bradford after bore draw with Royals
BT Sport’s publicity stunt of making the FA Cup quarter-final tie between Bradford City and Reading free for all to view backfired somewhat, as two of the three non-Premier League sides left in the draw shared a stalemate.
There’s a phrase which could aptly be borrowed from America to describe this clash between the giant-killing Bantams and Steve Clarke’s Championship club lost in mid-table mediocrity; bowling shoe ugly.
Playing on an awful Valley Parade pitch, chances were at a premium, though both Bradford and the Royals rattled the woodwork in the first half.
Reading’s Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak hit the post with a shot on the turn, after good work by Jamie Mackie on the right, though he may have dribbled the ball out of play.
Gary Liddle’s left-wing cross-shot then hit the upright down the other end, and these were the only noteworthy first-half incidents.
Long-ball tactics and dogged defending in difficult conditions were a feature throughout, which Stephen Kelly’s last-ditch interception denying Bradford frontman Jon Stead, who has scored in every FA Cup round so far.
Stead then turned provider, crossing for partner James Hanson, who steered wide at the near post. The Royals went close late on with a goalmouth scramble ensuing after Oliver Norwood’s delivery glanced the woodwork.
Bantams boss Phil Parkinson, who spent the majority of his playing career at Reading, admitted: “The pitch won’t get any better between now and the end of the season.”
If Bradford are to win the replay down in Berkshire, then the likes of potential Wembley opponents Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United will be thankful the semis take place on neutral ground.
Should the Bantams stay in the hunt for promotion, it’s still conceivable they may renew acquaintances with the Royals next term in the Championship. League One’s play-off picture is perhaps the most compelling, though, and Parkinson needs repeat performances from his players from those Chelsea and Sunderland wins in order to be in with a chance.