Two goals, a clean sheet, into the hat for the next round, job done. That's the bottom line after Reading comfortably saw off League Two Plymouth with a 2-0 win at Madejski Stadium.
If you were expecting wholesale changes and a big chance for Academy players to get the chance to shine you would have been left disappointed as Jaap Stam kept the majority of the team who'd beaten Preston in place, opting for minor tweaks instead. Those changes saw Anssi Jaakkola, Jake Cooper, Tennai Watson and Yann Kermorgant come into the side, with Callum Harriott also given a full debut. Even among the substitutes it was pretty much business as usual with no sign of Tariqe Fosu, Aaron Kuhl & Jack Stacey.
From a possession standpoint this was once again a totally dominant Reading performance, with 71% of the ball in total and closer to 80% in the first 45. The midfield trio of George Evans, John Swift and Danny Williams was once again running the show and the high pressing highlighted by Will in pre-season was again evident as Reading kept Plymouth pinned inside their own half for most of the first period.
That pressure ultimately yielded a couple of well taken goals. The first saw Joey van den Berg nod home his first in a Reading shirt from a lovely Swift set piece from the left, before another Dutchman in Roy Beerens made it two after following in Chris Gunter's initially saved effort. Those were the least Reading deserved against an Argyle side who looked every bit a League Two outfit who'd been humped 3-0 at home on the opening day of the season.
At times Reading just seemed to be toying with their opposition, with Beerens in particular doing some lovely pieces of skill down the right hand side while the confidence was flowing to the extent that at times you had centre-back van den Berg operating wide down the right-hand side inside the Plymouth half. Tennai Watson was also producing a very solid performance at right-back and looks like a decent deputy for Gunter. If you did have a concern it was that Plymouth keeper Vincent Dorel didn't have that many saves to make as Reading struggled to turn territory into clear cut chances.
In saying that, if there had been an option to call off the game I'm pretty sure the visitors would have taken it as they gave the 500 or so travelling fans precious little to get excited about.
The downside of Stam's decision to play first team regulars showed itself in the second period as Reading slowly eased off the throttle and the game broke down into more of a pre-season outing than a cup tie. We were still very much the dominant side, with Plymouth's first meaningful shot on 50-odd minutes being greeted by ‘how s**t must you be, we've just had a shot' from the travelling fans but Reading's easing off saw precious few chances created at the other end either.
Harriott was subbed off around the hour mark after an underwhelming performance, with fellow new signing Yakou Meite given the chance to show the 6,979 fans inside the Mad Stad what he could do. Almost immediately we were given a glimpse into just why Meite was on the books of one of the World's biggest clubs in PSG, as he charged into a tackle and spent the next half an hour using his pace and power to try and get a sight of goal. I'll delve into his performance more in our Player Ratings but needless to say I was impressed.
Not that I was overly impressed with the rest of Reading's side over the following 30 minutes as the aforementioned ‘pre-season' vibe continued to play itself out. The fact I had around 10 minutes to ponder just how good Plymouth's David Fox used to be on Championship Manager 03/04 and whether he was a better signing than David Bellion in that game shows just how gripping things were getting in front of me. On that note, Stam's decision not to turn to his bench again was a bit puzzling but I suppose he's trying to give his team as much of a chance to gel as possible and you can't blame him for that.
2-0 was the least Reading deserved and with no injuries picked up, a clean sheet and a couple of first goals for the club, Stam must have been happy with his first taste of EFL Cup action as a manager. Far, far tougher tests are ahead for Reading, starting with Wolves on Saturday but never underestimate just how important it is for clubs to get the job done against weaker sides. We've seen far too many games where Reading have struggled against inferior teams and to get the job done early and comprehensively was refreshing to see.
Reading: Jaakola, Gunter, van den Berg, Cooper, Watson, Evans, Swift, Williams, Harriott (Meite), Beerens, Kermorgant