The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 74 

 

Reading 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday

 Fourth round {last 32}: Saturday January 26th 1929

Elm Park, Reading

Attendance: 25,248

Scorer: Bill Johnstone {75}

Lon Chaney and Lionel Barrymore battled as rivals in 'West of Zanzibar', Helen Kane aka the voice of Betty Boop had a hit with 'Don't be like that' and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia came into being.

Since winning the Southern section of the Third Division in 1926 Reading had found life tough in the second tier of English football. Their first season in the second tier in 1926/27 had been promising, staying well clear of the relegation zone while an epic FA cup run had seen them humble Manchester United before losing a semi final in Wolverhampton to Cardiff. Reading were unable to keep the momentum going and struggled at the wrong end of their division before securing survival towards the end of the following season and the 1928/29 season was going the same way. 

Indeed things had looked bleak in November when Reading slumped to a 0-7 drubbing at Blackpool that left them at the foot of the table but a turnaround in fortunes in December saw them start an unbeaten run that allowed them to climb out of the relegation zone and start a cup run with a routine victory over Tottenham, also of Division Two in the third round.

Their unbeaten run stretched to twelve games the week before their fourth round cup tie and added to a growing buzz around Elm Park that the club had turned the corner and that 1929 was going to be special but their current good form was about to face it's stiffest test with a visit from the most in form side in the land, First Division leaders, Sheffield Wednesday.

The Owls of Hillsborough, who didin't officially adopt the name Sheffield Wednesday until the end of this season, were a transformed team from the side that looked almost doomed to relegation towards the end of the previous season. Astute buys, including Jimmy Seed from Tottenham had seen a remarkable change of fortunes as the side performed a great escape to stay up, at Tottenham's exspense, and then maintained their great form into the current season to open up a five point gap at the top of the table that had them already being hailed as Champions elect by January. 

To add spice to the tie, Reading manager, Andrew Wylie was quoted by the daily news days before the game as saying "We don't need special training to beat a team like Sheffield Wednesday." Incensing his opposite number, Robert Brown. No sooner had the Wednesday team charabanc arrived at Elm Park than an aggrieved Brown approached Reading chairman, Mr Phillips to politely protest at the slighting of the best team in the land. A sympathetic Mr Phillips assured the Wednesday boss that Wylie had said no such thing and pledged a generous donation of £25 to the charity of Wednesday's choice on production of any evidence to the contrary.

Having satisfied the visiting manager, Mr Phillips took his place in the director's box as over twenty-five thousand voices greeted the two sides onto the field with Wednesday avoiding a clash of the two club's similar blue and white stripes by opting instead for white shirts and blue shorts.

And the league leaders made an impressive site as they emerged, led by the ex England international, Jimmy Seed, himself a cup winner in 1921, along with two current England men, Jack Brown and Ernie Blenkinsop, to face the home heroes whose only top flight experience came from ex Huddersfield right half, Tommy Meads, although keeper, Joe Duckworth had amassed a handful of games for Blackburn almost a decade earlier.

Jimmy Seed won the toss and elected to defend the Reading end in the first half as the hosts kicked off into the sunshine but the spectators behind Jack Brown's goal saw very little close up action in the early exchanges as the visitors settled into their stride very quickly. When they did see their first taste of action it was very contentious as Harry Goodwin and Murdo McDonald burst out on the Reading right to set up Bill Johnstone with a great chance but just as the striker was about to round the keeper a late challenge from Walker brought him crashing down. To Reading's credit the loudest appeals for a penalty came from behind the goal but referee, Mr Price of London, remained unimpressed and the Wednesday goal survived. That challenge set the tone for the rest of the first half as Wednesday adopted a physical approach usually employed by the lesser side to counter the greater skill of the top flight side and Mr Price eventually had to take action. Both Tommy Walker and Billy Marsden's names went into the referee's note book as the man in the middle decided that the visitor's tackling was becoming a bit too meaty but it was the Wednesday men who were coming off worst in the challenges. Ernie Blenkinsop had to leave the field briefly after mistiming a challenge with Johnstone but it was an injury to centre forward, Jack Allen that proved most serious when he clashed with Messer. Wednesday's most dangerous player, himself a hero of a giant killing in his days at Brentford was forced to leave the field for some time and returned to play out the remainder of the first half as a passenger on the wing.

There was action for both keepers as well during a half dominated by the two defences with Brown forced into a smart stop from McDonald while Duckworth also proved agile in stopping an Allen drive before the striker picked up his injury but the best chance of the half came just before the interval when Johnstone's drive seemed destined for the top corner of the Wednesday net before Brown showed why he was England's keeper with a fine save.

When Wednesday emerged for the second half it looked as though they were going to play with just ten men as Allen didn't join them but after a two minute delay the crowd were surprised to see the visiting centre forward hobbling onto the field and even more surprised when he took his usual place as the spearhead of the attack instead of going back to wing.

Despite the handicap it was Wednesday who offered the more potent attacking threat in the first fifteen minutes of the second half as Reading had to dig deep defensively to avoid being over run and it was also now that Joe Duckworth put in a string of good saves to keep the Owls out.

After fifty-eight minutes though the crowd held their breath as the home custodian spilled a Mark Hooper effort right at the feet of Jimmy Seed who wasn't sharp enough to react in time to turn the ball home. A grateful Duckworth made the most of the vital second to dive on the ball and keep the scoreline blank. Then, within a minute, the game shifted to the other end of the field as Bert Oswald set up Bill Johnstone with a great chance only for the indecisive striker to get caught in two minds and tamely tap the ball into Brown's relieved arms.

The middle portion of the half was the best of the game as the action flowed from end to end. Wednesday made a strong appeal for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike Messer on the arm but yet again the referee was unmoved and waved the appeal away. In an instant the ball was at the other end again where McDonald's shot was deflected wide when heading for the goal. Reading made nothing of the resulting corner and instead it was Wednesday who came closest of all so far to breaking the deadlock when Rimmer burst through and lobbed Duckworth only for the ball to go agonisingly wide. Moments later it was Reading's turn again to come agonisingly close in sensational fashion as Johnstone's audacious forty yard drive had Brown at full stretch to tip it round the post. the crowd were hardly being given time to catch their breath as Wednesday swung into attack and went closer still when Mark Hooper chipped Duckworth, only for the ball to crash off the bar to safety.

With bopth sides giving it everything a goal had to come and it finally arrived, in Reading's favour, with a quarter of an hour left on the clock. Jimmy Seed dallied on the ball and was robbed by John Hunter who slid the ball out to Bert Oswald before the latter sent in a perfect cross, which Johnstone turned past Brown from eight yards out.

After all the growing tension there was an explosion of relief and excitement from all corners of the ground as the Reading fans celebrated while the large contingent of travelling Wednesday fans were surprisingly gracious in their applause of the goal.

If Duckworth had been considered good, not to say on occasion lucky up to now, he and his full backs and half backs came into their own in the time that remained as Wednesday forced a series of goal mouth scrambles in which the keeper always came out on top or a defending toe made a last ditch challenge to prevent a clear cut shot. Indeed in the last ten minutes Wednesday played with six forwards, though Allen had remained a virtual spectator for the entire second half despite being in the most prominent position of the attack and many Wednesday fans were already lamenting the decision to put him back in the centre forward role as a costly mistake. Even with a six man forward line the ball wouldn't cross the Reading goal and in the latter stages there were a couple of opportunities for the home side to kill the game off but the tired forwards fluffed their lines when presented with the gaps in The Owls defence.

By the time the referee started checking his watch there were already Reading fans edging over the side walls of Elm Park in readiness of the celebrations for the final whistle and when it came they poured from every corner of the ground to hail the winners. There were also many handshakes for the losing forwards who were forced to carry Allen from the field, so badly injured the striker now was. Billy Inglis also came in for special praise from the fans on the field as the full back hobbled from the scene of victory with blood flowing freely from a gaping wound in his knee. The directors meanwhile pocketed a cool £2,000 in gate receipts and prayed for the draw to give them more good fortune in round five.

The Sheffield men took the defeat in the gentlemenly spirit of the times and left for home to concentrate on clinching their first League title for a quarter of a century and it was a measure of just how good a side they were that they retained their crown in 1930.

The Reading fans got what they hoped for when paired at home to yet another First Division giant in round five in Aston Villa. The Villains had crushed their fourth round opponents, Leyton Orient by a record score so nobody was going to take this tie lightly but a snow covered pitch made good play very difficult and it was the visitors who ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.

{Image left; Reading captain, Tommy Meads greets his Aston Villa opposite number before their fifth round tie at Elm Park. Despite high expectations, Reading couldn't repeat their heroics against Wednesday and went down 1-3}

Reading were still looking nervously over their shoulders as they continued to sit just above the relegations zone but poor results from teams around them ensured that, despite their inconsistancy, The Royals had done enough to survive with two games to spare. It would be over half a century before Reading made it to the big time in their own right but the first division clubs did come to Elm Park to check out the talent. Goal hero Bill Johnstone was given his chance at Arsenal but The Gunners were embarking on the first golden period in their history and the striker struggled to get a place in their star studded line up, making just twelve appearances. Bert Oswald, whose cross had set up the goal, also left Elm Park in 1930 and did little to endear himself to those Sheffield Wednesday fans who remembered him as he donned the red and white of local rivals, Sheffield United.

Nobody ever did provide any proof of Andrew Wylie's comments and Reading's £25 stayed safely in the club coffers.

Sheffield: 1:Jack Brown, 2:Tommy Walker, 3:Ernie Blenkinsop, 4:Alf Strange, 5:Tony Leach, 6:Billy Marsden, 7:Mark Hooper, 8:Jimmy Seed, 9:Jack Allen, 10:Bob Gregg, 11:Ellis Rimmer

Reading: 1:Joe Duckworth, 2:Bill Inglis, 3:Ted Smith, 4:Sid Chandler, 5:Alf Messer, 6:Tommy Meads, 7:Harry Goodwin, 8:Murdo McDonald, 9:Bill Johnstone, 10:John Hunter, 11:Bert Oswald {manager: Andrew Wylie}

Referee Mr A G Price {London}

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