Reading 2-0 Watford: Royals overcome depleted visitors to reach FA Cup fourth round
A severely depleted Watford side made a tame exit from the FA Cup third round when they lost 2-0 at fellow Sky Bet Championship play-off chasers Reading.
Watford showed little in a scrappy first half, with Reading going ahead in stoppage time direct from a Kelvin Abrefa cross that evaded goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.
Reading dominated much of the second period and sealed the victory late on – again in stoppage time – when Shane Long scampered clear to slot home.
Watford head coach Slaven Bilic was without 15 senior players due to injuries, suspension and ineligibility.
He made eight changes to the XI that started the 1-0 victory at Norwich on Monday, with 15-year-old full-back Harry Amass among only seven substitutes on the bench.
Watford sit in fourth position in the Championship but only four points ahead of 13th-placed Reading in a congested table.
But, with such a makeshift team, it was little surprise that the visitors failed to make any significant headway in the opening exchanges.
Reading proved the more potent in attack, with Femi Azeez cutting in from the right flank before firing over from 20 yards out.
Okoye was untroubled by it but, moments later, he had to move smartly to intercept and clear an overhit backpass from Mario Gaspar.
Azeez then tested Okoye with a low drive that the goalkeeper had to push away to prevent it sneaking inside his near post.
Reading continued to press before the break, with Okoye fumbling an Azeez cross only for Joao to miss the target with a totally miscued attempt.
And Okoye was at fault again for the opening goal, in the third minute of first-half stoppage time, when he was deceived by a deep right-wing cross from Abrefa.
Though Okoye got a fingertip to the ball, it cannoned off the far post and into the net.
It was the 19-year-old defender’s first goal for the club.
Watford opened the second period promisingly but Bilic’s injury woes soon worsened when Leandro Bacuna, an interval substitute, was taken off in the 54th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Reading controlled most of the early sparring, with Azeez again to the fore and Joao also making a nuisance of himself up front.
Mamadou Loum, a replacement for Sam Hutchinson at the break, cut in dangerously from the right but his effort from a tight angle was deflected behind.
Watford gradually began to offer an attacking threat, with Yaser Asprilla shooting weakly at home goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis after he had wriggled into the home box.
But Reading broke away in the 93rd minute for the veteran Long to guide past Okoye from a superb Tom McIntyre pass.