Reds vow to keep stars

Hope Akpan

Hope Akpan

First published in Sport by

Boss Richie Barker has urged his Crawley team to become heroes – as he bids to hold on to his star players.

Reds take on Reading in the third round of the FA Cup at Broadfield Stadium today aiming to claim their first ever Premier League scalp.

They go into the game having turned down bids from a Championship club for both Hope Akpan and Kyle McFadzean.

Barker knows from personal experience the competition’s capacity to turn journeymen players into household names for a day or two after helping Rotherham knock out Southampton - who were then in the top-flight – in 2002.

He said: “I scored a diving header which ended up on the back of every newspaper in England. It even made it into the Sydney Times. It used to be framed in our downstairs toilet but my wife has got rid of it now.

“That shows what the FA Cup is all about. There is no pressure on us so we might as well go and enjoy it. All we can do is give it our best shot.

“The club is yet to beat a Premier League club. I think we are getting closer every time but hopefully we might go one step further and who knows a replay?”

Reading arrive second from bottom in the Premier League but Barker says that although there are only 32 places between the two teams the gulf is massive.

He said: “Premier League players are different animals. My scout report for this game was a bit different to the normal League One report as for every player it says ‘he’s fast, he’s strong’.

“I looked at their bench for the Spurs game and it featured Le Fondre, Hunt, Morrison, Tabb, Robson-Kanu and Cummings while Jason Roberts will probably be back too.

“Pretty much all seven of those players could step straight into the first team and it probably wouldn’t make a great deal of difference. When you have people like that sitting on your bench it shows the strength in depth.”

Roberts is expected to return from a hip injury today but Mikele Leigertwood is definitely out while new signing Daniel Carrico is not expected to feature.

Crawley will assess the fitness of defender Claude Davis this morning while new signing Lateef Elford-Alliyu is likely to be among the substitutes.

Striker Richard Brodie, who has just returned from a six-month loan spell at Morecambe, has joined Conference title chasers Grimsby on loan for the rest of the season.

Crawley (4-4-2, possible): P Jones; Hunt, Connolly, Davis, Sadler; Adams, Akpan, Simpson, M Jones; Clarke, Alexander. Subs from: Kuipers, Walsh, Byrne, Bulman, Cooper, Torres, Clifford, Elford-Alliyu, Akinde.

Reading (4-5-1, possible): Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Kebe, Tabb, Karacan, Guthrie, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak. Subs from: Taylor, Cummings, Gorkss, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Morrison, Le Fondre, Roberts, Hunt.

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