Reading are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup after beating Blackpool 2-0 in a replay at Bloomfield Road.
As he did in the original fixture, Mark Bowen made 11 changes to the starting XI from Saturday’s draw with Nottingham Forest. Indeed it was an identical side that faced the Tangerines at the Madejski Stadium, except for Matt Miazga and Sam Baldock who were replaced by Tom McIntyre and Danny Loader. Garath McCleary captained the side, whilst academy players Jeriel Dorsett and Ben House were named in the matchday squad for the first time.
Line-up: Walker; Howe, McIntyre, Burley, Richards, Rinomhota, Olise, McCleary, Boye, Obita, Loader
The hosts had the first chance as Nathan Delfouneso, who opened the scoring 10 days ago, headed over from an outswinging corner. Reading began to grow into the game soon after though, as first Lucas Boye and then Danny Loader tried their luck from outside of the box - the latter coming much closer to scoring than the former.
The deadlock was broken just before half-time when Boye netted from six yards out. McCleary worked his way down the right hand side before firing in a cross which Jay Spearing failed to deal with, but the Argentinian showed great instinct to react quickest and stab the ball underneath Mark Howard.
Reading almost began the second half in perfect fashion as Michael Olise came agonisingly close to his first goal for the club when he hit the post with a shot on the turn - not the last time the woodwork would be struck on the night.
The following 20 minutes were dominated by some fantastic goalkeeping from both number ones. First, Mark Howard saved McCleary’s powerful effort from outside of the box, before Sam Walker got down brilliantly to keep out Matty Virtue’s header from point black range. Olise then saw his free-kick pushed wide, and Walker was it at again to deny Delfouneso and Armand Gnanduillet.
As the clock ticked over the 70 minute mark, Reading continued to push for a second goal and hit the woodwork twice in quick succession from efforts from Boye and Omar Richards. The second goal finally arrived a few minutes later though when Jordan Obita poked home from close range after Howard had saved his initial header.
This proved to be the cushion that the Royals needed to see out the game, with Bowen happy to make three substitutions in the closing minutes. Sone Aluko got a few minutes to impress once more, there was a debut for academy graduate number 55 Jeriel Dorsett and even Charlie Adam got the chance to briefly feature on his return to Bloomfield Road.
The result will be a huge relief for Mark Bowen, who would have been cautious of the threat Blackpool could pose his young side after the original fixture. However the Reading team played with a point to a prove, and they could have easily won by more goals had the woodwork not proved such a cruel adversary. The game will have proved vital experience for many of those in blue and white, nine of whom had come through the academy. It’s now nine games unbeaten for the Royals, with another clean sheet on the board.
Reading will now play Cardiff City or Carlisle United at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday 25th January. Those two sides meet in their replay tomorrow night.