The brightest thing about this dismal FA Cup tie was Reading manager Steve Clarke’s shiny white trainers.

Tame Town were dumped out of a competition, which on this evidence, certainly has lost a lot of its sparkle.

And a late red card for midfielder Jonathan Hogg only added to Chris Powell’s frustration.

The boss reached the quarter-finals with Charlton Athletic last season, and picked an attack-minded side in a bid to make the fourth-round draw.

He gave fans the chance to see James Vaughan and Nahki Wells in tandem from the off.

And the seldom-spotted Adam Hammill was handed a first start since Powell arrived in mid-September, with Sean Scannell and Jacob Butterfield dropping to the bench.

 

The 4-4-2 formation, with Harry Bunn, vibrant and on target when Reading were beaten on their own turf in the Championship earlier this season, and Hammill out wide, promised a positive approach.

But Town never got going and robust Reading produced the game’s only moment of genuine quality to clinch victory.

Substitute Nick Blackman sealed his side’s passage with a sweet 69th-minute strike.

A neat one-two with Hal Robson-Kanu split the Town defence, and keeper Alex Smithies had little chance with a confidently-struck left-foot shot.

Vaughan had missed Town’s best opportunity earlier in the second half, when he nodded over from Jack Robinson’s teasing cross from the left.

And Wells looped a header over the bar while substitute Scannell shot wide soon after Blackman made the breakthrough.

But Danish keeper Mikkel Andersen, in for Aussie Adam Federici, had much too quiet an afternoon.

The opening half was dire, with the first use of vanishing spray at the John Smith’s Stadium the only thing to break the tedium.

Both managers made changes at the break, Blackman replacing Jamie Mackie and Anthony Gerrard coming on for Murray Wallace, who had a groin and hamstring niggle.

And Town skipper Mark Hudson emerged for the second period with a bandage around his head.

There was a slight rise in tempo, but Town were still far too tepid, and it was hard to put a case for a replay, never mind a win.

It’s crucial that Powell’s side do much better when Watford head up the M1 on Saturday.

FA Cup 3rd Round - Huddersfield Town (0) v Reading (1) - Chris Powell.
 

The Hornets will be looking to inflict a third defeat in four home games on Town.

And Hogg, influential in the 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers at the John Smith’s, will be out against his former club through suspension.

Already booked for a foul on Blackman, Hogg saw red as he squared up to Danny Williams, who kept hold of the ball as Town tried to take a free-kick quickly.

It was easy to see why he was frustrated, but referee Phil Gibbs had little option other than to caution both players, and therefore end Hogg’s match a couple of minutes early.

His absence won’t help, but Town can play so much better than they did on Saturday, and will need to against Watford, who have been in the top six for most of the season and will be keen to complete a double after their 4-2 win at Vicarage Road in August.

Bunn and Scannell will also need to find a way of getting the better of many teams’ tendency to double up on them in terms of markers.

Their supply of chances is key, whether Town play one or two up front, as is converting more of them.

Town are losing too many of these type of games, when there is little to pick and choose between the teams.