Goals from Kelvin Abrefa and Shane Long were enough to beat a below-par Watford side and earn Reading a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Abrefa opened the scoring when his looping cross flew over goalkeeper Maduka Okoye and went in off the far post just before half-time.
Striker Long settled the tie for Paul Ince’s side late on with a well-placed low strike from just inside the box.
It was Reading’s first win in any cup competition since 2020.
Watford, who made 15 changes to their squad because of injuries and other absences, improved in the second half but were unable to create enough quality chances in a one-sided game.
The hosts started the game on the front foot and rarely let up.
Femi Azeez set the tone with a powerful curling strike from just outside the box that sailed just over the bar in the opening 10 minutes.
The Reading striker, who was an absolute menace in the first half, then fired a cheeky left-footed low drive from the corner of the box minutes later only to be denied by Okoye’s superb save at his near post.
Lucas Joao squandered a golden opportunity to put Reading in front just before half-time when a poorly cleared ball by the Watford goalkeeper landed at his feet, but he failed to get a clean shot away from 16 yards and the ball flew well wide of the target.
Watford’s shaky defense was finally breached minutes later when Abrefa’s cross found its way into the back of the net in added time.
After the break a rejuvenated Watford, who were missing most of their starting 11, were able to wrestle some of the initiative back from Reading on a rainy day at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
After failing to get a shot on target in the game’s opening 45 minutes, the Hornets finally called the Reading keeper into action.
Both midfielder Yaser Asprilla and defender Ryan Andrews popped off a pair of attempts on goal, forcing Dean Bouzanis to make some close-range saves.
Watford continued to pressurise the Reading defense and they came close to an equalizer when a spinning shot from midfielder James Morris was spilled by Bouzanis on his line, but the keeper was able to smother the ball just before striker Tobi Adeyemo could pounce on it.
But veteran striker Long sealed Reading’s place in the fourth round deep into injury time with a cool low strike from inside the box.
Reading manager Paul Ince told BBC Radio Berkshire:
“It was a really good performance from us and we passed the ball really well.
“I know they [Watford] had some injuries and they were starting a couple of young lads but we were the most dominant team.
“We sometimes lacked that cutting edge but I can’t moan because we won and it’s a clean sheet at home.”
Watford manager Slaven Bilic told BBC Three Counties Radio:
“Considering everything it’s a good learning process for some of our younger players who showed strength, ambition and character.
“The first goal was a strange one and a bit unlucky.
“But we showed in the second half that even with this inexperienced team we could stay in the game and create a couple of chances.”
- 27MbengueBooked at 69mins
- 4HutchinsonBooked at 13minsSubstituted forloumat 45′minutes
- 12BabaSubstituted forGuinness Walkerat 86′minutes
- 15AzeezSubstituted forCarrollat 70′minutes
- 9Lucas JoãoSubstituted forCraigat 79′minutes
- 18Guinness Walker
- 3M GasparSubstituted forAndrewsat 45′minutes
- 42MorrisBooked at 59mins
- 36hungboSubstituted forAdemeyoat 75′minutes
- 49Adu-PokuBooked at 86mins
- 50BlakeSubstituted forBacunaat 45′minutesSubstituted forGrievesat 54′minutes
- Peter Bankes
Match ends, Reading 2, Watford 0.
Second Half ends, Reading 2, Watford 0.
Goal! Reading 2, Watford 0. Shane Long (Reading) right footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Tom McIntyre.
Dean Bouzanis (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. James Morris (Watford) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the center of the goal.
Foul by Shane Long (Reading).
Ismaël Koné (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Watford. Granted by Kelvin Abrefa.
Shane Long (Reading) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Ryan Andrews (Watford).
Substitution, Reading. Nesta Guinness-Walker replaces Abdul Rahman Baba.
Michael Adu-Poku (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Amadou Salif Mbengue (Reading) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Michael Adu-Poku (Watford).
Andy Carroll (Reading) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by William Troost-Ekong (Watford).
Tom McIntyre (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michael Adu-Poku (Watford).
Attempt blocked. Yaser Asprilla (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.