Just when everybody thought it was all about one former Premier League striker, up popped another to steal the glory.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, once of Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Everton, but a free agent when he was signed by Reading on deadline day, won a hugely entertaining FA Cup tie after Darren Bent’s fifth goal in six games for a Derby side reduced to 10 men for more than half the game looked to have taken the tie to replay.
“As soon as I saw him standing there on the touchline, with that big smile of his, I knew we were in trouble,” said the Derby manager, Steve McClaren, who signed the powerful Nigerian when he was manager at Middlesbrough almost 10 years ago.
Not that McClaren could have been described as distraught at bowing out of the competition. With six league games in the next three weeks, starting at Rotherham on Tuesday, Derby’s priority is promotion, as was evidenced in their manager’s decision to make seven changes to the side who drew at Bournemouth.
Only one of those changes was enforced, Bent starting in place of the injured Chris Martin but the players who came in included the Manchester United loanee, Jesse Lingard, and there was little evidence Derby were a weaker side for their presence. They were on top for most of the first half, and had Stephen Warnock, making his debut at left-back, not been sent off shortly before half-time after deservedly receiving a second yellow card, the odds are they would have gone on and won.
As it was they continued to play the same brand of passing attacking football after going down to 10 men, and then falling behind to a lovely finish by Hal Robson-Kanu. Bent’s goal, a deflection he know little about from a Lingard effort that was going wide, was fortuitous but deserved on the balance of play, and Derby were pushing for a winner when they were caught on the break and Yakubu produced a characteristically assured and powerful finish.
“We really didn’t want a replay, so we opened the game up, took risks to win it and I thought it was a fantastic effort, almost heroic,” said McClaren, who had no issues with the dismissal of Warnock.
“Even with 10 men we kept creating chances, and we’re disappointed to go out, but we weren’t going to win the Cup, so we move on quickly.”
In point of fact the number of chances created by both sides must have run well into double figures, starting with two excellent opportunities made by Derby in the first two minutes. The pace of the game was as fast as the tackles were full-blooded, so much so that at times the referee, Craig Pawson, appeared in danger of losing control, but though the crowd bayed in anger, he was right to send off Warnock, always something of a liability.
The opening goal was beautifully curled in by Robson-Kanu, quickly cancelled out by Bent’s fortuitous goal, before Yakubu’s introduction proved decisive, as after being played through by Robson-Kanu, he controlled and shot low past Kelle Roos.
“We knew what we were getting with Yakubu, he’s a goalscorer”, said the Reading manager, Steve Clarke. “Nine times out of 10 when he’s in a situation like that, he scores.
“We’ve underachieved this season, we’re still looking to secure our position in the Championship, but the Cup is giving us and in particular the supporters a little bit of joy in a difficult season. That’s three wins away from home, and we really don’t mind who we draw in the quarter-finals.”
Culled from “theguardian.com”