At last the miracle Reading fans have been hoping for has happened. Hell has frozen over and Dave Kitson has started his first competitive match for five months. He even managed to walk from the field (despite a cynical two footed challenge from Matt Upson) to a round of applause from the relieved away fans.
His inclusion in the starting line up was one of seven changes from the side that beat Sheffield United, allowing some returning players to gain much needed match fitness and fringe players to make a case for the starting line up.
Arriving at St Andrews, I wasn't prepared for the poor state of their newly resurfaced pitch, it seemed more reminiscent of a patch work quilt than a playing surface with the joins in the rectangles of turf clearly visible. At that point I would have happily predicted a dull patch with a near full strength Birmingham side just beating us. I don't think anyone was prepared for the exciting end-to-end game that followed.
The retuning Kitson took just three minutes to show how much we had missed his presence, scoring with his first shot after a nice pass from Seol. Keeping Kitson fit could have a big influence on where we finish this season in the Premiership. His physical presence is something we have missed and his ability to read the game and break up counterattacks is vital. He is capable of holding the ball up and teams really seem to struggle to deal with his height. A few more games to build up the match fitness he was clearly lacking and I have no doubt he score plenty of goals.
It wasn't the greatest performance I have seen from Reading but I think the 3-2 score line was fair. Whilst Birmingham may have had more chances than us, we seemed in control from as soon as Kitson's goal crossed the line and a lot of credit has to go to the players for that. It really is pleasing to see that we do have depth in our squad, despite many pundits claiming otherwise.
The back two of Sodje and Bikey wouldn't be any fans first choice, but they dealt with a good Birmingham front line well, making vital tackles and winning most of the balls in the air. De La Cruz couldn't repeat his excellent performance against Sheffield United again with plenty of stray passes. I'm not sure if this was just down to a bad day or the constant boos the ex Villa defender received from the home fans.
It's the first time I have seen Adam Federici play and he performed far better than I was expecting, pulling off some good saves. His distribution isn't yet up to Hahnemann's standards but his shot stopping and decision-making seems equally as good. He pulled off a great save from a close range header at 1-0 that really kept us in the game despite being ill during the night.
The midfield without Sidwell did seem a little weak but it was good to see Seol putting in a performance reminiscent of his appearances early in the season. He was getting stuck in and his persistence lead to the first goal.
Another player who seemed to be back to his best was Bobby Convey. The tiredness seen in the Burnley game was gone and he was able to run for the full 90 minutes. His confidence grew as the game went on, and by the end of the first half he was willingly taking on 3 or four players, leading to Lita's first goal. Whilst I don't think he is quite ready to be challenging Hunt for a starting place it shouldn't be too much longer and that competition can only be good for the team.
Up-front both players scored and you can't ask for more from your strikers than that. I don't think it was Lita's best game, but it's hard to criticise a striker who scores two goals on an off day. The cameo appearance from Simon Cox at the end of the game hopefully signals the start of home grown players progressing through to the first team.
It was so satisfying to finally see an academy player who loves the club as much as the fans playing for the first team and going by his performance he maybe a good backup option for Kitson if he gets injured again. He showed some great touches and his flick on to Lita lead to the third goal and he has great physical presence for a young player.
If this game was anything to go by, the magic of the cup is very much still alive. Whilst t maybe a little early to start dreaming of a trip to Wembley, it is only the third time in 72 years that the club have progressed this far, with Reading usually going out in the first round! A good draw on Monday and who knows, with this Reading team anything really is possible.
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