Crawley Town battle Royals but suffer cup exit despite great start
THEY took the lead after only 14 seconds, but it was ultimately disappointment for Crawley Town who were knocked out of the FA Cup by a Premier League team for the third consecutive season.
In front of a record crowd of 5,880 at the Broadfield, Nicky Adams gave the Reds an early lead, but despite an even game it was Premier League strugglers Reading who got the win thanks to an Adam Le Fondre double and one for Noel Hunt.
With Claude Davis unable to recover from a knee injury in time for the clash, Crawley lined up unchanged from Tuesday's League One win over Colchester United.
However, there was a place for new signing, striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu on the bench alongside want-away forward John Akinde.
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It was a dream start for Crawley as straight from the kick-off, Adams ran at the Reading goal and thumped the ball left-footed past a shocked Adam Federici.
And the Reds showed it was no fluke, continuing to attack with Hope Akpan testing Federici with a header from a Mat Sadler corner.
Reading were not rolling over, though, and the Reds needed captain Gary Alexander to head an Ian Harte free-kick out for a corner.
On 13 minutes the Royals were level, when Gareth McCleary's header across the box fell to Le Fondre to strike home unmarked.
Reading had a good chance of going ahead on the 25-minute mark when they caused the Crawley defence all sorts of problems but the final shot fell to Noel Hunt, who saw his strike take a deflection.
Crawley had a chance to regain the lead on the half hour when Adams, who might have gone for goal himself, passed to Simpson, whose strike was caught by Federici.
And minutes later Mike Jones found himself with the ball at his feet a mere two metres from goal but Federici smothered it.
On the stroke of 45 minutes, there was disaster for Mat Sadler. With McCleary bearing down on goal, Sadler slipped, allowing the winger to cross to Hunt to strike home for a half-time lead for the Premier League team.
Just three minutes into the second half it looked like the FA Cup dream was over for the Reds for another year, when 20-year-old Joe Walsh, who had been superb all afternoon, was adjudged to have fouled Hunt in the box. Le Fondre stepped up to take the penalty, sending Paul Jones the wrong way for 3-1.
Reading looked the better team at 3-1 but Crawley weren't without their chances; an ambitious cross by Billy Clarke almost finding the out-stretched boot of Alexander in front of goal.
After 67 minutes, Richie Barker introduced the new signing from Bury, Elford-Alliyu for his Crawley debut.
There was a crucial offside decision with Le Fondre through on goal after a counter-attack by McCleary after 74 minutes, but the Reds soon had the ball down the other end with Clarke furious with officials for awarding a goal-kick instead of a Crawley corner.
There was a late rally by the Reds, with Adams producing a stinging shot from distance before Sadler tried his luck but his strike took a deflection.
There was a late chance for a fourth for Reading but Jones pulled off a great save from a Hunt shot.