Reading FC v Gillingham, Carabao Cup 1st Round
Madejski Stadium, 8pm KO
Deary, deary me. As we all try to move past our collective playoff hangover, Saturday was most certainly not the start to the season that Royals fans were wanting.
Whether the result can be put down to the team simply underperforming, to the loss of key players or to a poor refereeing performance is a matter of opinion. What is now a fact however, is that Reading will view their Carabao Cup first round tie against League One Gillingham as a perfect opportunity to kickstart their season at the second time of asking.
Form (all comps): L
While Jaap Stam may have originally been planning to use the Carabao Cup as a chance to rotate his squad, many decisions will already have been taken out of his hands by the time he compiles his squad on Tuesday night.
Tiago Ilori will be unavailable after receiving a one-match ban for his straight red-card against QPR on Saturday, whilst Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who impressed on his debut, is also a doubt after he limped off injured during the second half in London.
Paul McShane remains suspended, with Gareth McCleary, Jordan Obita, Joey van den Berg and Yann Kermorgant all still on the sidelines. Pushing for a start will be Modou Barrow, who came off the bench against QPR to make his first appearance for the Royals at the weekend.
Given the current threadbare nature of the Royals squad, it came as no surprise to see Academy graduates Andy Rinomhota, Sam Smith and Omar Richards all make the bench on Saturday. It can therefore be expected to see a few more new names on the team sheet come Tuesday night, especially given the Dutchman’s ability to name just six first team substitutes against Rangers on Saturday.
Form (all comps): D
The Gills had a pretty dour start to the season themselves, but were at least able to take a point away from a 0-0 draw against Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Having only avoided relegation to League Two on the final day of last season, it is unlikely that the Kent-based side will be looking to the Carabao Cup as a priority. Manager Ady Pennock, in the job since just January, knows that his main task will be preserving their League One status. While changes can be expected, Pennock has explicitly stated earlier this week that he still expects his side to give a decent account of themselves in Berkshire, so any alterations are unlikely to be wholesale.
Both their skipper Lee Martin and influential midfielder Billy Bingham picked up knocks at Doncaster, with the latter requiring stitches, meaning both remain doubts for Tuesday’s game.
What do the stats say?
Neither side has a huge Carabao Cup pedigree
- The Royals and the Gills are unlikely to view this tournament as a potential source of silverware, with neither side having progressed past the fourth round of the competition in the last five seasons. The visitors’ best display in the tournament came in reaching the last 16 twice, in 1963/64 and 1996/97. The Royals’ League Cup heyday came, much like that of Britpop and the Spice Girls, in the mid-to-late nineties, with the team making it to the quarter finals in both 1996 and 1998.
Record-breaking Royals...for all the wrong reasons
- The 30th October 2012. It is a date that will forever be remembered in ignominy by all Royals fans, as they were forced to witness one of the great English footballing collapses. Leading 4-0 against Arsenal with 44-and-a-half minutes played, the Gunners staged one of the most incredible comebacks of recent times to win 7-5 at the Mad Stad, with the game becoming the highest-scoring League Cup tie in history. Thankfully, Dagenham and Redbridge and Brentford also shared twelve goals just two seasons later in their 2014/15 First Round tie that ended 6-6, which helped to take some focus of our shocking collapse. So you know, every cloud...
No giants to be killed here?
- If Gillingham do overhaul the Royals on Tuesday, it will be no mean feat for the Kent side. The last time that the Royals were last eliminated in the First Round of the League Cup by lower-tier opposition was six years ago, when they lost 2-1 to League One Charlton at The Valley.
What about the history?
Head to Head
Last 5 meetings
01 January 2005: Gillingham 0-0 Reading (EFL Championship)
18 September 2004: Reading 3-1 Gillingham (EFL Championship)
21 February 2004: Gillingham 0-1 Reading (EFL Championship)
14 October 2003: Reading 2-1 Gillingham (EFL Championship)
10 February 2003: Reading 2-1 Gillingham (EFL Championship)
Reading 2-1 Gillingham, 10th February 2003, Madejski Stadium
A footballing classic? No. But in terms of what the result meant to the Royals’ play-off push in their first season back in the second tier for four years, it was a massive result.
With Reading sitting sixth prior to kick-off, the chasing pack were closing down on the newly-promoted side. Just a point separated them and seventh-placed Wolves, but to hammer home just how tight the league as a whole was at this point, the gap between Reading in sixth and fifteenth-placed Burnley was a mere five points.
Despite going 1-0 down early on thanks to a Rod Wallace strike, the Royals rallied under pressure. Just minutes after falling behind, loanee Luke Chadwick scored on his debut to level proceedings, before John Salako struck at the death to give the Royals a priceless win. The result saw them rise to fifth and gave them clear daylight (well, four points difference) between themselves and Wolves in seventh, in a campaign that would culminate with an impressive fourth-placed finish.
How can I follow the game?
Audio coverage will also be available on BBC Berkshire at 104.4FM, but not online.
Jaap Stam was understandably vocal in his disappointment over such a turgid display at Loftus Road on Saturday, so he will certainly be looking for a reaction from his players on Tuesday night.
A cup run will not be the Dutchman’s priority this season, but after such a lukewarm performance from the team in their 2017/18 curtain raiser, he will want a win. The Royals should have too much for their lower league opposition, and I back them to win 3-1.
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Who will progress into the second round of the Carabao Cup?
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