The Royals fought back from 2-0 down to take Cardiff to extra time to then come back from behind again to take it to penalties, before finally securing their spot in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
This was the third fixture in 10 days between the sides, with the result being a draw each time. Josh Murphy put Cardiff in front and they made it two through Robert Glatzel. Omar Richards scored to put us back in contention before Andy Rinomhota equalised. Murphy put the home side ahead again before Yakou Meite scored his third goal against Cardiff in the last 10 days to take us to penalties.
The Royals secured their place in the fifth round to face Sheffield United through the unlikely source of Sone Aluko which sealed a 4-1 victory by penalties. Mark Bowen put out a strong side and was happy with the character his side showed. He spoke to Berkshire Live after the game.
On the game
“I’m delighted - character, resilience - all those things my side showed. First half no doubt about it we were miles off what I expect and what the players ask of each other. We were poor in the first half and I had some harsh words to say at half time.
“I made a couple of changes - I didn’t think the players that came off were worse than anyone else but I just wanted to flip things around and switch to a 4-4-2. I asked the players to be braver on the ball and show more character. In the first half we were just looking at Cardiff. I wanted us to get on the ball and try and take the game to them.
“Sone Aluko I thought did that, Garath McCleary as well. When we started doing that it gave the team more confidence and to come back from 2-0 down and being down in extra time - I’m proud as punch. I’m delighted for them.”
Bowen on three well-taken goals
“I felt the way the game was going I thought we were on top. The third goal they scored was a bit of a mix-up between Osho and Walker but we brushed ourselves down and kept going at them.
“Meite’s finish was fantastic and you got the feeling, when it went to penalties - I told them in the huddle: At this stage I don’t care if we lose because my opinion of them wouldn’t have changed if we lost on penalties. I said they were fantastic and showed great character - just strike the ball well and I had a feeling we’d win on penalties.”
Bowen on the importance of the FA Cup
“The fans haven’t had too much to cheer over the past few years and you’re trying to give that back to them. The excitement of the club will never go away. I’m a traditionalist, I’m looking forward to a home game - that’s all you can ask for. It’s a very hard team in Sheffield United but it keeps things bubbling along. We have to make sure we recover and have a plan ready to go against Hull on Saturday.”
Bowen on the difference between the sides
“I feel for Neil Harris because it is a mental battle - three games in such a short space of time. Having the same players and having to prepare them again. Three games was always going to lead to penalties I suppose.”
Bowen on a never-say-die attitude
“I put demands on them all the time. I am pleased for the team and the manner of the win, and also the fans. At half time they were probably like me - what the hell have we come down here for? But hopefully they’ll go home proud of the group of players after they turned it around.”
Bowen on the magic of the cup
“It will never go for me. You want to progress and not look too far ahead. Bring it on - Sheffield United.”
Bowen on Gabriel Osho’s performance
“He showed guts - he had cramp after about an hour but he got through it and he was one of the first ones to put their name up to take a penalty. Full credit to him after a little mistake for their third goal - it would have been easy for him to put his head down and be a shrinking violet but he stepped forward and said I want a penalty so I’m proud as punch.”
Bowen on Aluko’s winner
“I feel for him because he’s had some tough times. He showed character coming on the pitch. I had some harsh words at half time - I said to the guys coming on, I need you guys to get on the ball, be brave, demand the ball and stay on it and give the team confidence with your body language as much as anything. They are both experienced players and they certainly did that.”
Bowen on Sam Walker stepping up
“He fills the goal and when you see him standing there in goal it does put fear into you. You want a big keeper to fill the goal. I said to the guys hit the ball well and Sam will win the game for us and he did.”