Bradford City 1, Reading 1; David Markham reports from Valley Parade.

Bradford City must show a huge improvement on this sorry show if they are to progress to the third round of the Worthington Cup.

Even though manager Paul Jewell was forced to play a weakened side because of injuries, there was enough experience and ability in the team to have taken a useful first leg lead to Reading for next Wednesday's second leg.

But never at any time did City look like beating a side who have made such a bad start to their league programme that they are next to the bottom of the Second Division.

Talk about 'After the Lord Mayor's Show comes the dust cart' - what a contrast this instantly forgettable, lifeless affair presented to the splendid entertainment we saw on the same ground only two days earlier in City's 1-1 draw against Spurs.

Then, a near capacity crowd of 18,143 were richly entertained with a match full of passion, commitment, pace and skill.

Last night Valley Parade was less than a third full and, sadly for the crowd of 4,961, none of the players on either side could manage to lift the match beyond the mediocre and it provided poor entertainment for the spectators.

For much of the time, the atmosphere was more like that a reserve match than a tie in a League Cup competition which can provide glamour, money and ultimately a Wembley final.

Perhaps we have been spoiled by the vibrancy of the Premiership, but any connection between what we have seen in City's matches in the top division so far and this lacklustre affair was purely imaginary.

City lacked five players from Sunday's starting line-up - Stuart McCall, Peter Beagrie, David Wetherall, Wayne Jacobs and Gunnar Halle were missing through injury while Andrew O'Brien, Dean Saunders, Lee Mills and goalkeeper Gary Walsh were on the bench.

That left only Gareth Whalley and Dean Windass from the first eleven at the Spurs match in the starting line-up.

Jewell took the opportunity to give players like Darren Moore, Robbie Blake, Stephen Wright, Ashley Westwood, Andy Myers and goalkeeper Matthew Clarke rare opportunities to press their claims for regular places.

Sadly, few of these players or anyone else in the team did themselves justice on a bitterly disappointing night.

Jewell said: "The players who have been out of the team had the opportunity to show me they deserve selection, but not many of them have given me too many selection problems for Satur-day."

In a match where there were few genuine goal attempts, it was fitting that both goals should come from penalties although Reading manager Tommy Burns was honest enough to admit after the match that he didn't believe either incident should have led to the award of spot kicks.

The goalkeepers, Clarke and Scott Howie, had only been forced to make only one genuine save each when City were awarded the bonus of a penalty two minutes before half-time after Chris Casper tripped Windass.

Up stepped Blake to score from the spot to give City an interval lead, but, in truth, it was one of the few things that the highly rated striker did right all night.

Although no player could be totally happy with his performance, out-of-form Blake looked far away from being the skillful goalscorer who played such a huge part in City's promotion triumph last season.

Now that he is off the transfer list there is no reason why he should not be determined to claim a regular first team place and show what he can do in the Premiership.

Little went right for him last night, though, and it was no surprise when Jewell substituted him, along with new signing Bruno Rodriguez, 25 minutes from the end.

The French B international - signed on loan to the end of the season from Paris St Germain - also made little impact, but it is hardly fair to judge him on such a bad night for the team in only his first full match.

Jewell replaced Rodriguez and Blake with Mills and Saunders in a bid to inject more life into the play and a cutting edge to City's attack.

But before they could make any impression on the match, Reading equalised after 67 minutes.

Defender Ashley Westwood fouled Jimmy McIntyre and former Spurs midfield player Darren Caskey scored from the spot.

Jewell immediately replaced defender John Dreyer with pacey reserve striker Gareth Grant, but although the three substitutes brought renewed life to City's attack a goal was not forthcoming.

In fact it was Reading who came closest to snatching the winner in the last minute when their substitute Lee Hodges saw his close range shot deflected for a corner - much to the relief of City's players.

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