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Huddersfield Town 2-2 Reading FC: Wells Rescues Town After Stunning Royals Comeback

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A topsy-turvy FA Cup third round clash between Huddersfield and Reading almost saw the Royals snatch victory despite a largely disappointing display that saw the hosts rescue their participation with a late Nahki Wells penalty.

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Brian McDermott took the Royals to Yorkshire with a full-strength team, the departed Nick Blackman dropping out of the line-up along with Paul McShane and Orlando Sa to allow Hal Robson-Kanu, Garath McCleary and Anton Ferdinand to return. Reading initially lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Oliver Norwood captaining the side from a deep midfield position and McCleary central behind the forwards Matej Vydra and Robson-Kanu.

First-Half

Reading sat deep early on, looking to hit Robson-Kanu for counter-attacks, but it was Town who threatened through pressure and possession. Joe Lolley forced a camera save of-sorts out of Ali Al-Habsi before Robson-Kanu fired the visitors' first effort after 10 minutes, however chances were few and far between for Reading as the midfield failed to convince.

And yet, the best chance of the half fell to Reading as Vydra's sharp pace rounded the Huddersfield keeper Joe Murphy, but had a shot cleared off the line. Back at the other end the hosts continued to press but couldn't find the perfect disguised pass in the final third and lacked clinicality with shots from the likes of Joel Lynch that comfortably found Omani international Al-Habsi. Typically, the half ended with Nahki Wells unable to convert from a quick move that began with Reading's attacking throw-in, the away fans and players becoming visibly frustrated.

Second-Half

Tactical changes gave the Royals a breath of life in the second-half, starting strongly in a standard 4-3-3 formation that expressed width through the previously anonymous McCleary, but normal service soon resumed. As the Terriers got back into the game they led, Jamie Paterson getting on the end of a neat cross to divert a free header into the bottom corner.

As the referee considered his position, Reading's participation in the Cup teetered on the brink.

Far from generating a reaction from the away team, the goal spurred on Huddersfield and their confidence was in contrast to the travelling side, until the game changed after the hour mark. Wells broke clear and touched the ball round Al-Habsi, who appeared to have clattered the tumbling forward and the home crowd leapt to their feet. As the referee Jamie Simpson considered his position, Reading's participation in this year's FA Cup teetered on the brink. Nevertheless, a yellow card was produced for the diving Wells to much abuse from the Yorkshire faithful.

McDermott reacted by bringing on Lucas Piazon for the underwhelming Stephen Quinn, and after a few more 50/50s went Reading's way, Jake Cooper released Vydra to turn Kyle Dempsey and fire an equaliser against the run of play, via a deflection. This upset the hosts far too much, and suddenly the game was on it's head and Reading were in with a shout of victory. An Al-Habsi fingertip stop reminded the Royals of Town's threat but soon it was back at the other end, Robson-Kanu's snapshot tipped wide after Vydra was hauled down in the area.

Piazon's impact in behind the attackers was growing, and the Brazilian turned well from a McCleary one-two to set up Welshman Robson-Kanu from the same position as moments before, and the attacker seemingly took an age to set himself and find the far corner for 2-1 after 87 minutes.

Once more Huddersfield forced the excellent Al-Habsi into a diving save but as five minutes of added time was announced, McCleary had the ball in the corner and Reading's progress to round four looked sealed. However, Harry Bunn roamed forward into the penalty area and was tripped by a dangling Oli Norwood leg and Wells tucked away the 91st minute spot-kick underneath Al-Habsi.

Closing Thoughts

It's still early days in this second McDermott epoch and it's understandable that tactics can be trialled to uncover considerable error. The diamond formation that Reading began with lacked width and constant individual errors from the midfield meant that change was a necessity. Fortunately, a shift was forthcoming and the second-half heralded a more secure performance against a Huddersfield side that had much confidence after netting the opener.


Coming back from that to not only level, but lead, was nothing short of incredible. Vydra and Robson-Kanu couldn't have chosen a better time to score and show their worth to the team and Piazon's intervention was also crucial. That said, even at 2-1 there was an openness and vulnerability to Reading that was reminiscent of McDermott's inability to see games out in the Premier League.

This team needs to learn the ruthless manner of seeing out games that the new boss surely has the nous to teach them. While a late penalty deprived the travelling fans of a victory, being in the hat for the fourth round is 99% of the battle and Reading are more than capable of ensuring safe passage back the the Madejski in a weeks time.