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Kidderminster strike back to earn shock FA Cup comeback win to dump out Reading

Kidderminster Harriers v Reading – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Aggborough Stadium
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Amari Morgan-Smith was Kidderminster’s late hero as they dumped Reading out of the FA Cup with shock 2-1 comeback victory.

The National League North side – the lowest ranked club left and 79 places below their Championship visitors – came from behind to stun the Royals by the narrow result.

George Puscas’ first goal for nine months gave Reading the lead before Sam Austin levelled after the break and Morgan-Smith struck with eight minutes remaining to earn a third-round giantkilling.

Defeat increased the pressure on Royals boss Veljko Paunovic as injuries and rotation saw Reading start with six players that were aged 21 or under.

Pre-match, Paunovic admitted owner Dai Yongge “is not the happiest man in the world right now” amid their awful run which has taken them from a promotion battle to a relegation fight.

Reading have plummeted from seventh to fourth bottom after two wins from 11 games and having been hit with a six-point deduction in November for breaking the EFL’s financial rules.

Defeat will not have improved Yongge’s mood and – even if the Royals are willing to give Paunovic time – there were few reasons why they should on Saturday.

They did at least create the first chance when Luke Simpson’s wretched clearance fell straight for Mamadi Camara but the Harriers goalkeeper atoned for his error to save at the striker’s feet.

The hosts had not played since December 18 due to Covid-19 issues sweeping through their opposition but, despite Simpson’s slip, there was little between the teams.

Danny Drinkwater, Chelsea’s £35million misfit, hoicked a deep ball straight out of play to sum up Reading’s early lack of direction, despite seeing more of the ball.

They remained in control of possession but, worryingly for the Royals, Kidderminster were comfortable and never overstretched which allowed them to grow in confidence.

In fairness to Reading they had hardly been given a tough examination until Harriers burst into life during a hectic two-minute spell just after the half-hour.

First, Ashley Hemmings wanted a penalty after Tom Holmes’ challenge and, when the ball ran loose, Morgan-Smith’s shot was saved.

It roused Aggborough, which had lost its early verve, and Omari Sterling increased the noise levels when his brilliant 30-yard effort was turned onto the crossbar by Rafael Cabral.

From the corner, Mark Carrington headed the ball over but Reading regained their composure and grabbed the lead just before the break.

In the end it was simple as Harriers lost their way and Tom Dele-Bashiru touched on Drinkwater’s pass for Puscas to smash past Simpson.

It should have given the visitors the platform to progress but they failed to build and slowly the hosts began to find openings.

Sterling skidded a free-kick wide before Austin curled the ball wide after beating Ethan Bristow in a warning of what was to come.

Reading lost the luckless Felipe Araruna after 64 minutes when he was carried off in just his second game following 464 days out injured.

It then got worse for the Royals after 69 minutes when Harriers levelled. Caleb Richards cushioned Hemmings’ cross for Austin and his low drive squirmed under Cabral.

Kidderminster deserved the leveller and pushed for a winner which finally came after 82 minutes when Hemmings’ corner sparked an almighty scramble and Morgan-Smith eventually forced the ball in.

Harriers then negotiated 14 minutes of injury time following Araruna’s injury and stoppages for three flares behind thrown onto the pitch to spark wild scenes at Aggborough.

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