READING chief Steve Coppell paid tribute to Town's gameplan and ability after his side were pushed all the way last night.

Just getting used to the Madejski Stadium manager's chair, Coppell admitted his First Division side had been stretched immensely by Town's man marking organisation and workrate.

It resulted in a tight contest in which chances were scarce and there were few of the thrills which had courted Town's passage to this stage via Derby County and Sunderland.

Their superb band of supporters, however, rose to applaud Jackson's men for the effort at the end - recognising they had been undone by just one incisive move.

That came just 10 minutes from time when Kevin Watson threaded a pass to Steve Sidwell down the right and his cross was nodded in by Nicky Forster, arriving late to avoid the attentions of Efe Sodje around the six-yard box.

It ended Town's Cup foray as sole representatives of the Third Division, but they left with the praise of a relieved Coppell ringing in their ears.

"It is always very difficult when a team are so well prepared as Huddersfield were," said the ex-Palace, Brentford and Brighton boss.

"I have great respect for the management team there because they set out a gameplan to stifle and be passive and to try and nick something from the game.

"It was very reminiscent of a system I worked out about six weeks ago for Brighton up at Middlesbrough and I have to say Huddersfield's organisation was terrific.

"We were always trying to be progressive and positive, but they made life very difficult for us and I'm well pleased to be in the hat for the next round because that was the object of the exercise."

The introduction of former Manchester City favourite Shaun Goater after 67 minutes seemed to breathe fresh life into Reading as the tie looked destined for extra time and, possibly, penalties.

Coppell added: "Huddersfield matched us up man for man and the spare guy at the back was Nathan Clarke, who is an excellent young player.

"Then you've got Jonathan Stead up front who has got bags of ideas and he's going to be a really good player in the future, that's for sure.

"They tried to stop us playing and they did it very well because we found it hard to get into our passing rhythm, especially on a very greasy surface. It was tough, but Shaun Goater made a very valuable contribution and we came through."

It might all have been so different, because Town missed the best chance of the match in the opening seconds of the second half.

Andy Holdsworth, who again showed solid prowess in the right wing-back role, clipped in a dangerous corner to the Reading near post and Steve Yates was clear to go for goal.

The experienced centre-back rose unmarked to make the header but he glanced it fractionally over the bar with confident keeper Marcus Hahnemann struggling to cover.

Town's fans behind that goal gasped in disbelief because they knew it was a massive let-off for the home side as Jackson's men looked for only a third away win of the season in all competitions.

All the focus before that had been on Stead as news circulated of the bid from Sunderland to take him north and east.

He almost gave the press and the crowd of 11,892 plenty to talk about, too, with a blistering effort in the 29th minute - the first real shot on target by either side in the match.

Playing in a more withdrawn role on the right, Stead powered into space and unleashed a crunching 25-yard drive which Hahnemann simply couldn't hold.

The rebound was cleared for a corner as Town - with Danny Schofield showing his tricks on the left and Andy Booth playing as a lone frontman - offered some neat passing moves through the middle.

Some awful refereeing by Dermot Gallagher didn't help their cause - Lee Fowler being booked and Jon Worthington pulled up for what was the best tackle of the match on the half-way line.

Town kept going, however, with Yates splendidly shackling Andy Hughes in the centre, and while John Salako fired over from Reading's best chance of the first half, the home side looked to be struggling until Goater came into the fray.

Murray, Salako and Nicky Shorey then fired efforts across Ian Gray's goal while Town were frustrated by Reading's offside tactics at Tony Carss' free-kicks.

Goater rampaged to create a couple of late chances but Town - with Clarke outstanding at the back and Fowler a shining influence in the second half - were certainly not disgraced.

It was just around the Reading box that Town let themselves down as the final pass or the final shot didn't show the necessary composure and accuracy.

And that one vital lapse in concentration which allowed Forster to extend his scoring run against Town to three straight games was the decisive factor in the end.

Town form (3-6-1)

Ian Gray Made a good block from Murray in the box after Fowler had poked the ball across the area in the 39th minute Rating: 7/10

Andy Holdsworth Covered well on the right in a containing role and didn't get many chances to probe forward. Will learn from the experience Rating: 7/10

Tony Carss Joined in neatly at times with Schofield going forward on the left. Sparked an offside trap at his free-kicks Rating: 7/10

Steve Yates Had the best chance of the match with a glancing header just over. Super marking job on dangerman Hughes Rating: 7/10

Efe Sodje Just caught flat-footed for the goal after taking a heavy knock on the calf earlier. Made some decisive clearances Rating: 7/10

Nathan Clarke Hardly put a foot wrong in the sweeping role which suits him to a tee and looked back to his very best form Rating: 8/10

Lee Fowler After getting booked, played superbly in the second half and went close to the top mark with Clarke Rating: 7/10

Jon Worthington Frustrated by the referee in the tackling stakes, he covered loads of ground and looked after his defensive duties well Rating: 7/10

Danny Schofield Saw plenty of the ball on the left in the first half but just couldn't find the right cross for Stead or for Booth Rating: 7/10

Andy Booth His control and effort stood out on a greasy surface, but he could have done with one good cross to attack Rating: 7/10

Jon Stead More withdrawn from his natural role but still fired in Town's best effort of the match and worked very hard Rating: 7/10


Hahnemann, Shorey, Watson, Murray (Goater 67), Williams, Forster, Hughes, Sidwell, Ingimarsson, Salako, Newman.

Subs not used: Harper, Savage, Ashdown, Tyson.


Star Man - Nathan Clarke

A steadying influence for an unchanged Town team and impressive when he got on the ball at the back. Seemed to cover easily for his teammates and Reading had had few opportunities before Forster sneaked clear to grab the winner

Turning point

For the only time in the match, Efe Sodje was half a yard out of position as Nicky Forster drifted into the box to meet a cross from Steve Sidwell and clinch Reading's place in the fourth round for the first time in six years


Subs used: Reading: Goater for Murray 67. Town: Brown for Holdsworth 82.

Subs not used: Reading: Harper, Savage, Ashdown, Tyson. Town: Senior, Mattis, Holalnd, Mirfin.

Scorer: Reading: Forster 80.

Referee: Dermott Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Reading: None. Town: Fowler.

Shots on target: Reading 4, Town 1.

Corners: Reading 9, Town 3.

Caught offside: Reading 0, Town 4.

Free-kicks awarded: Reading 12, Town 8.

Attendance: 11,892.

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