Royal victory marred by ‘abuse’

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Reading eased past Bradford on Monday to set up a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against holders Arsenal – but their big night was soured by what is understood to have been alleged racial abuse aimed at goalscorer Garath McCleary.

Following a goalless draw in their initial sixth-round tie, Reading ran out 3-0 winners over the 10 men of Bradford at the Madejski Stadium following a blistering start to the replay.

Hal Robson-Kanu and McCleary scored inside the opening 10 minutes, with Jamie Mackie adding the third moments after Felipe Morais had been sent off for the visitors.

The final whistle was met with scenes of jubilation from the home fans, with a number pouring onto the pitch to celebrate, while flares were also let off.

A fan had also made his way onto the pitch while the game was still being played, but it was an incident involving McCleary five minutes before half-time that ended up being the talking point of the evening.

The Jamaica international went to collect the ball for a Reading corner and was seen to make a complaint to the assistant referee, with Reading confirming in a short statement after the game that he matter had been passed on to the police.

“An incident was reported to the match officials just before half-time, who in turn told Reading staff. A man was then arrested and ejected during the half-time interval,” it read.

Press Association Sport understands the player made a complaint of being racially abused – with Royals boss Steve Clarke said after the game he was aware that McCleary was “upset by something” although he had no further information at that time.

Clarke was determined to instead focus on the achievement of his side, with Reading reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup for the first time since 1927 and for only the second time in the club’s 144-year history.

“To give the club and the supporters the FA Cup run has been a bonus for us,” Clarke said.

“You see tonight what it means to us. We go to the semi-final, a difficult game against Arsenal, but we go there with hope and belief that maybe we can continue the good work of Bradford.

“Bradford have been fantastic underdogs in this tournament this year and we look to pick up the baton now and do it in the semi-final.”

Bradford had seen off Barclays Premier League opposition in reaching the last eight, memorably coming from two goals down to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before going on to knock Sunderland out in round five.

But manager Phil Parkinson acknowledged his side had given themselves too much to do having slipped behind so early in the contest.

“Reading were the better team on the night, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb,” he said.

“They played with a spring in their step after that and we found it difficult to respond. A two-goal lead after 10 minutes lifted the whole crowd and their players but we have got to be immensely proud.

“This is tough to take, we wanted to progress but we have got to quickly move on and reflect on this year’s competition.”

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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