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The Magic of the FA Cup

Reading are into a quarter final of the FA Cup for the third time in the past five years, but this time they've been drawn against the lowest ranked team left in the competition. Now is the perfect time to look back at the near misses of 2010 and 2011.

2010 Reading 2-4 Aston Villa
Reading: 18th Championship || Aston Villa: 7th Premier League

Possibly the most heartbreaking match I've ever had the pleasure of attending. I was too young for our 1995 play-off final with Bolton and away from home when Walcott's hat-trick of stoppage time goals helped overturn a 4-0 deficit for Arsenal in the league cup. It's always the hope that kills you, and 2010 was no different.

It had all started so well when Brian Howard's corner was flicked on by Simon Church to Shane Long, who nodded in at the back post just inside half an hour. Before the break the lead was doubled when Jimmy Kebe broke down the right and pulled it across the box for Long to convert again. The Royals were in absolute dreamland, two goals to the good and outclassing Villa.

The half time break came at the perfect time for the Midlands side, and they came out firing in the second half. Within two minutes of the restart Ashley Young had pulled a goal back after some suspect defending before John Carew levelled up four minutes later when he got a run on Griffin to head home a Stewart Downing cross.

Six minutes later Carew got another; Stephen Warnock managed to find the big Norwegian in the box with a measured pass and he prodded past Federici. He completed his hat-trick by absolutely blasting a penalty past the Aussie after he'd been felled by Ingimarsson.

Possibly the only 'highlight' of the second half was one Steve Sidwell making it onto the pitch for the last couple of minutes when he replaced Downing. 

Based on league position - Villa were actually four points off fourth, with two games in hand - there was little expectation going into the game, but those three goals in ten second half minutes were big blows to the gut - According to the BBC Villa's goals were the only shots they had on target in the game. Unsurprisingly Carew finished as the competitions top goalscorer in 2010 with six goals, half of them in the sixth round.

Interestingly our game this year is exactly five years since that day at the Madejski.

2011 Manchester City 1-0 Reading
Manchester City: 3rd Premier League || Reading: 10th Championship

Only Tabb, Kebe, and Long started both of our recent QFs as Reading looked to frustrate the Mancunian side in our most recent foray into the Sixth Round proper. The Royals were high on confidence having dispatched of West Brom and Everton in previous rounds, but City had scored fourteen goals in their four matches to reach the Quarter Finals stage.

I distinctly remember David Silva being incredibly average that chilly evening, other than his cross for the only goal of the game, and he missed an absolute sitter early on - only managing to hit the ball against a spread-eagled Alex McCarthy after he'd saved a stinging attempt from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Twenty-year-old McCarthy kept the game goalless after Yaya Toure managed to get in behind the defence but hit the ball straight at the keeper.

At the start of the second half Shane Long almost turned the ball into his own net from a Kolarov corner, but Tabb on the post kept his cool and flicked away the ball.

Like a good television drama there were elements of foreshadowing when Micah Richards managed to get his head to a corner from the left hand side but his header into the turf was tipped over by McCarthy. They weren't so fortunate next as Silva put it in the perfect position for Richards to, this time, put the ball in the back of the net.

Coming out the ground City fans were spouting nonsense about how terribly we'd played. I'd take 1-0 against a team like City every day of the week. It's the same score they beat Manchester United by in the next round, and the same score they won they trophy with in the final - with a goal in the exact same minute (the 74th). Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

2015 Bradford vs. Reading
 Bradford: 9th League One || Reading: 17th Championship

Finally Reading fans get the match-up against Bradford, and Phil Parkinson, that's been dreamt about for the last few years. It almost happened in 2012, when Arsenal progressed to face the Yorkshire side after the aforementioned win against The Royals at the Madejski. That season saw Bradford reach Wembley twice - in the League Cup when they dispatched of Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Wigan before succumbing to Swansea, and in the League Two play-off when they defeated Northampton. This campaign they've taken the scalps of Sunderland, and Chelsea as well as thumping Millwall 4-0 in their 3rd Round Replay as they look to get back to that hallowed turf.

Unlike our previous two attempts we're not playing a side riding high in the Premier League, but we are playing one who has more than enough tools to eliminate us from the competition. I've seen Reading fans talk about how Bradford may get complacent, and I think that's a completely fair point. Bradford will go into the game as overwhelming favourites, playing at home and based on the form in both cup and league. Reading have been lucky in previous rounds - a lacklustre Cardiff team was navigated with an 88th minute winner, followed by a ten man Derby team after a Yakubu goal in the 82nd minute. However you can only beat what's in front of you, and Reading have been doing that.

I'm not expecting us to win in Bradford, and I genuinely mean that for any Bradford supporters reading, but on paper we have the easiest tie and if you can't lift yourselves when playing a League One team, while one win away from Wembley there's absolutely no hope for this team. They have two weeks to decide whether they want to be heroes, with their names in history books as the second Reading team to make it to the semi-finals of an FA Cup - and the first in 68 years, or just another Quarter Final defeat that will be written about, this time, as a disappointment.

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