The Pog looks revitalised
The Big Russian looked closer to his best on Saturday. Carrying on from a solid outing at Fulham a week ago, he led the line with the kind of grit and tenacity that we saw regularly last season. Steve Clarke may have talked up Nick Blackman after the third round win at Huddersfield, but it's Pogrebnyak who has earned the new manager's favour. Without Murray, the need for a strong target man is a pressing one, and the Pog showed why he could be so important in the latter stages of this campaign.
The role of lone striker is an unforgiving one. Often isolated against the opposition's defence, a relentless work-rate is an integral part of the job description. Pog showed that on Saturday, despite the lack of service that came his way. As Will said in his player ratings, Pav often had to drift wide to get involved in the play. That's a far cry from the striker that, at times this season, looked more happy to let the game pass him by.
Reading's wingers are upping their game
It's refreshing to be able to praise more than just one Reading winger for the same game. Garath McCleary drew all the plaudits last week with a man of the match performance, but had a little more competition this time round. If anything, confidence is the most important attribute for an attacker - Nick Blackman and Hal Robson-Kanu showed both against Cardiff. The former started, returning to the left wing, whereas the latter was an 82nd minute substitute.
The match as a whole was hardly a stellar attacking performance, but Blackman repeatedly showed the desire to attack the full back - something conspicuously absent from Robson-Kanu last week. As for the Welshman, a return to his international stomping ground seemed to give him a new lease of life. He forced a smart save from Moore with a header, before cleverly nipping in to seal the win. This could be the spark of confidence that Robson-Kanu needed to ignite his season. With him, McCleary and Blackman all hopefully coming into form, Reading might just have the attacking edge needed to fire their way up the table.
Could this be a special year?
It's easy to get carried away after looking at results elsewhere, but this competition is now wide open. With some memorable giant killings being recorded, there aren't many teams left to fear. Of the survivors, I'd only really worry about drawing Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal in the next round. Now when I say 'special year', I'm not hoping for too much. Reading may have deservedly beaten Cardiff, but the hosts barely turned up.
As Steve Clarke said after the game, it's so important to get the first half performance right - don't just leave it till the second period. That's what Reading have done in their last two games, but it won't work if we're to think about going as far as we can. And really, cup progress is as much about who you draw as how well you play. If we get lucky with the first, and improve on the second, 2015 could be a fun year for the Royals.
Bring on Wembley.
Oliver Norwood is a dead ball maestro
Set pieces can the be the difference between winning and losing at this level. Ex-Terrier Oliver Norwood proved that against Cardiff with a sweetly struck free-kick that evaded Simon Moore inside his right post. That'll be one of the key moments that stays in the memory, but Norwood's corners caused a real threat too. For most of the game, Jordan Obita had been on corner duty, but had failed to create anything with some pretty haphazard deliveries. With the likes of Alex Pearce and Pavel Pogrebnyak on the other end, Reading have some real threats from dead balls. That was a major success for the side under Brian McDermott, but hasn't been replicated since. That should be high on Steve Clarke's list of priorities, as there's plenty of room for improvement.
A day of mixed fortunes for ex-Royals
Of course, Phil Parkinson is the main pick here: the Bradford City boss masterminding a 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge to continue the Bantams' recent cup success. Ahead of the draw for the 5th round on Monday evening, it's already clear which side a lot of Reading fans want to face in a few weeks' time. Elsewhere, everyone's favourite Icelander Gylfi Sigurdsson had one of the most polarising afternoons he'll have in his career. The academy graduate lashed home one of the best goals of the day against Blackburn, before seeing red with a nasty lunge from behind in stoppage time.
It was a thoroughly bad afternoon for the ex-Royal at the Cardiff City Stadium though. Sean Morrison, who signed for the Bluebirds in the summer, endured a torrent of abuse from the away fans, before seeing his old employers knock his new ones out of the cup. I can't help but feel that Morrison's been harshly treated - the reasons behind his departure aren't fully in the open, but much of the Reading fan base have turned on him fiercely.