Reading U21’s lost 2-0 to Yeovil Town on Wednesday night at the Madejski in the Checkatrade Trophy, and will now face an away tie against Southampton in the next round, having already successfully qualified before playing the Glovers.
Manager Martin Kuhl named a side with a mix of first team regulars, unproven youngsters and players on the edge of the first team. Jake Cooper continued his recovery from injury, and there were also starts for Tennai Watson, Danzell Gravenberch, Liam Kelly and Dom Samuel.
Stuart Moore; Tennai Watson, Jake Cooper, Tom McIntyre, Omar Richards; Liam Kelly, Danzell Gravenberch, Andy Rinomhota; Tyler Frost, Andria Novakovich, Dominic Samuel.
The match started as a game of cat and mouse, with Reading playing their now-familiar game of probing, passing football in an attempt to open the visitors up. To their credit however Yeovil did not get sucked in to pressing too high, instead choosing to remain compact and solid.
The only real chances of the opening 45 were usually instigated by Kelly, who had his passing boots on to such an extent that he completely controlled the midfield. From a Kelly freekick Cooper headed just wide, and he also played several excellent balls into the box which Samuel failed to read in time.
At the other end, Stuart Moore in the Royals goal was not tested beyond his comfort level. The only real incident of note came just a few minutes before the interval - Kelly received treatment after being floored by an agricultural challenge and was withdrawn (presumably just as a safeguard) at half time.
The second 45 began in the worst possible fashion for the home side - the visitors took advantage of Reading failing to properly clear an inswinging freekick, and Tom Eaves slammed the ball home from close range. It’s hard to be too critical of such a young side for conceding a sloppy goal like this, but given that three defensive players (Cooper, Watson and Graven-beast) are all regulars in the first team squad it is somewhat worrying.
Reading did liven up a little after this, the precocious Josh Barrett (who fans may remember from a couple of substitute appearances at the end of the last season) firing just wide, and Tyler Frost firing over, as the home side generally went slightly more direct. This did also allow Yeovil more space for the counter attack, and they got into several promising positions but failed to really test Moore.
Barrett and Sam Smith tested Glovers keeper Jonny Maddison again before Reading were hit with the inevitable sucker-punch just a minute from time; again properly failing to deal with a set-piece, the back line could only watch as Francois Zoko stole in from close range and slammed home.
The travelling hordes (84 brave/mad/commendable diehards had made the journey from the West Country) went wild at the knowledge their side were safely into the next round.
As usual when young players play it is customary to look for the positives, of which there were some. All the players (maybe except Cooper) looked entirely comfortable on the ball and capable of intelligent, careful passes. Kelly ran the show in the first half and Reading would probably have taken a point if it were not for his untimely withdrawal.
Some of the youngsters (Barrett, Frost and McIntyre included) looked as if they certainly have futures as Football League players - their pace, speed of thought and pass, as well as positional play, all looked up to league standards to me.
However, the sloppy defending that led to both goals cannot be overlooked. Neither can the highly uninspiring performance of Samuel, who showed glimpses of talent but also why Stam is seemingly not too keen. Of course all these players are very young and untested - which is why nights like this are such a good reminder of how much they have to learn.