Chris reviews the disappointing FA Cup defeat
Chris Powell was very disappointed at the performance from his side in today’s 1-0 FA Cup reversal at home to fellow Championship side Reading.
A single second-half goal from Royals substitute Nick Blackman proved enough to settle the tie in the visitors’ favour, with Town failing to test opposition custodian Mikkel Andersen throughout the 90 minutes.
“We didn’t perform at all; we were very flat. I know these sort of games can be difficult, but we were more or less at our strongest barring Jacob Butterfield and Sean Scannell,” Chris admitted to htafc.com post-match.
“I felt we had the opportunity to start without those two and stay strong and resolute. However, we never really got going; we needed more urgency.
“It was one of those days. I think both sides kind of cancelled each other out. The only real but of quality and movement in the entire 94 minutes came from them. It never happened from the first minute despite a few fleeting moments.
“It was similar to the Birmingham defeat. When we have been at our best – like against Bolton, Nottingham Forest and Brentford at home – we start and stay on the front foot and manage situations really well. That’s the template. Regardless of the formation, that’s how we have to play. When we don’t have that, we struggle.
“I wanted it to happen for us today. If you make lots of changes it looks like you’re not taking the game seriously and I wanted to keep the back five, including Alex (Smithies), intact to maintain some continuity and togetherness after our sterling performance against Bolton.
“We were well supported – our fans were here – and they, along with everyone else, deserved more from the day.”
Top scorer Nahki Wells was restored to the starting line-up ahead of the game to partner James Vaughan in a 4-4-2 formation, but the whole team didn’t click on a frustrating afternoon.
Chris continued: “People have been clamouring for (James) Vaughan and (Nahki) Wells to start. This was an opportunity to get that front two on the pitch and work on things, but obviously things didn’t work well today; if it did, they would get into goal-scoring positions and – more importantly – would get the service. It was tough for them, as Reading played a bit deeper and didn’t give much room to either striker.
“Our approach play into them wasn’t to our usual standard, which people might say was due to Jacob (Butterfield) and Sean Scannell’s absence on the pitch. However, I had a good enough 11 out there to get something, that’s for sure.”
Another man restored to the line-up for the game was winger Adam Hammill, who made his first start of Powell’s tenure.
“It’s been a long road back for Adam after he was missing for a while, because our wide areas have been sewn up by Sean Scannell and Harry Bunn in the main. He wanted to show what he could do, but it wasn’t the day he wanted today. On the plus side he got an hour into his legs, so hopefully he can build on that in the future.”
A day of disappointment was compounded late on when midfielder Jonathan Hogg – arguably Town’s best performer on the day – was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Chris said: “I love Hoggy’s enthusiasm and endeavour, as well as his underrated quality, but today it was a second yellow. Of course he rightly wanted to get the ball back and the other player got a yellow card for trying to waste time, but when the players come together the referee cannot book one and not the other.
“He will now be unavailable for the Watford game, which is a big miss. It’s a shame, because he’s had a good relationship with Conor Coady and Jacob Butterfield.”
Another player whose availability for next weekend’s game is in question is defender Murray Wallace, who had to be taken out of the match during the half-time interval.
“Murray was injured; he felt his hamstring area just before half-time. We’ve been trying to nurse him through that because he’s done very well of late and he was getting the run he wanted in the team. It’s a real shame that he couldn’t continue, but Anthony (Gerrard) had to come on.”