Everton may well have felt it was not going to be their night even before kick-off. An accident on the M62 left Jermaine Beckford stuck in traffic and unable to get to the ground until the match started. This forced a late reshuffle of the side, Leon Osman coming in to play in the hole behind Louis Saha.
Reading were hit by injuries, particularly in defensive areas, with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy making only his fourth start for the club behind a very experienced back four, including Zurab Khizanishvili and Ian Harte.
Reading also featured pacy wingers in Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff and it was the Championship side who looked the brightest in the opening ten minutes. However Everton gained a foothold, with some neat passing in central areas, Leon Osman in particular causing problems from his position behind Saha.
Reading though began to gain in confidence, and with the quality of Ian Harte’s left foot, set-pieces were always going to cause a problem. 25 minutes in, his corner from the left found skipper Matthew Mills, and although his first header was weak, as Everton failed to clear, he drove the ball home from 12 yards to give Reading the lead.
Everton looked shell-shocked and for the remainder of the first half were disjointed – the slick passing of earlier in the half disappearing, replaced by a host of misplaced passes. The worst culprit was Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, whose every touch was greeted with howls of derision.
The Russian’s misery was ended at half-time, as Beckford made his belated entrance, along with Victor Anichebe who replaced the anonymous Seamus Coleman. Beckford almost made an instant impact, linking well with Saha immediately, but hitting a weak effort at McCarthy.
Reading were content to defend in numbers, and with the pace in the side were more than happy to hit the hosts on the break. Ian Harte went close with a trademark free-kick, another example of his set-piece expertise.
However Everton’s Mikel Arteta was having a poor night with his delivery, time and time again failing to beat the first man with his corner kicks. Everton did come close when Leighton Baines took over corner kick duties, but Saha’s swivelled effort through a crowd of players hit Beckford on the line.
Everton had one more chance with ten minutes to go as Saha’s deep cross was intelligently headed across goal by Beckford for the onrushing Osman, but his effort from six yards was superbly blocked by McCarthy to preserve Reading’s lead. Despite five minutes added time, Everton could create nothing more and after opening the door to FA Cup glory by knocking out Chelsea, they had it firmly slammed shut by a Reading side who now face Man City or Aston Villa in the quarter-finals.