Reading beat an injury-hit Watford 2-0 to confirm their place in round four of the FA Cup.

Despite making nine changes themselves, a goal from Kelvin Abrefa and Shane Long, in both first half and second half stoppage time, rounded off a good afternoon at the SCL Stadium.

Up against an inexperienced side such as Watford’s, it was no surprise to see Reading start on the front foot. Passing with purpose and intent, it took nine minutes for the first effort when Femi Azeez cut in and fired a shot over the bar. Maduka Okoye in the Hornets’ net struggled throughout and was nearly left with egg on his face after 10 minutes when Lucas Joao closed him down and nearly forced the ball over the line. Tom McIntyre, playing in central midfield, was dispossessed on the 20-minute mark and Adrian Blake’s deflected effort saw the visitors earn a corner. The Royals broke and Shane Long’s cross evaded everyone in the box but threatened to divert into the bottom corner. Azeez, lively throughout, had another effort on the half hour mark and did find the back of the net from Abrefa’s cross, only for the offside flag to cut his celebrations short.

The celebrations were not on hold for long however, as Abrefa scored his first goal for the club in extraordinary fashion. Looking to cross into the box, the window caught Okoye out and he was left stranded as it curled over his head and into the net on the brink of half time.

Reading Chronicle:

The hosts dominated the early stages of the second half, as they had done the first, but failed to carve any real openings. Substitute Mamadou Loum saw an effort deflected for a corner and Joao was sent through a few times only for his touch to let him down or the defenders to clear up well. As the game progressed, Slaven Bilic’s Hornets grew in confidence at still being in the game and forced Dean Bouzanis into a handful of saves. Dispossessing McIntyre in midfield, Watford broke four versus four and found themselves in the box, with Yaser Asprilla free on the left. Cutting in, his low effort was well smothered by the Australian who did well to keep it out. Looking dangerous throughout the final 20 minutes, a series of changes slowed the tempo down as Ince tried to secure the hosts’ progression to the fourth round.

Bouzanis left hearts in mouths in stoppage time after dropping the ball on the goal line, but referee Peter Bankes sparred his blushes and called for a foul. Up the other end, McIntyre drifted a pass over the top of the defence and 35-year-old Long tucked past Okoye to set up a place in round four.

The draw for the next round takes place on Sunday, with fixtures due to take place on the week commencing January 23.