I think we all expected changes to the team for the arrival of Blackpool after Mark Bowen stuck with the same 11 players for four games in a row over the festive period - and he did that to obvious success. And Bowen didn’t surprise us, bringing in 11 fringe players and academy graduates to the starting lineup.
I think it’s also fair to say that the wholesale changes took their toll on the quality of the performance. Reading were lacklustre throughout the whole game really with the second-string players such as Jordan Obita, Lucas Boye, Garath McCleary and Omar Richards failing to capitalise on a rare starting opportunity.
The Royals fell behind twice in the game, but responded well themselves with two cracking finishes from Sam Baldock and youngster Danny Loader - the latter being particularly naughty. We were also lucky not to go behind for a third time when Armand Gnanduillet saw his cheeky panenka penalty crash against the crossbar.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points after the game...
As previously mentioned, the majority of Reading fans should’ve been expecting a lot of changes from a team who’s played a lot of minutes over the crammed festive schedule. But maybe not everyone was expecting 11 changes.
Whether or not that was the right decision or not definitely split the opinion of the fans, too. With some saying it was the correct call to prioritise the league, and some thinking it was maybe a bit too much and that it showed a lack of respect to the FA Cup.
It definitely had a negative effect on the overall performance, and the fans certainly noticed that...
It was a random team literally put together on the day, and it showed. Don't really think it was that bad given that #readingfc— Rafael'sNut (@P0PAD0M) January 4, 2020
I personally don’t have an issue with the team selection today. But what those players have done today is shown why they’re currently B-team players and they have scrapped their chances of getting into 1st team any time soon @willow1871 #readingfc— Cam Baker (@cambaker96) January 4, 2020
I'm not going to criticise the team selection today. The league is clearly being made a priority and rightly so when we're 5 points off top 6 with a game in hand. Would love a cup run, but would love top 6 finish more. #ReadingFC— Milo (@MiloRoyal1871) January 4, 2020
Thought Bowen got the team and subs selection spot on for me today. The players that started and those that came on should have been good enough to see of Blackpool today . Hope he picks the same squad there or thereabouts come the replay #readingfc— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) January 4, 2020
.@BBCBerkshire where on earth do you find your callers? Never heard such nonsense coming from them. We've had a busy xmas period and going into a busy January, obviously we had to make changes. People moaning about it need have a reality check. @willow1871 #readingfc— Tom Mitchell (@Tom_1871) January 4, 2020
1/2 Looking back on yesterday’s game. Changes had to be made if we are to pursue promotion - can’t begrudge players a break after a spectacular set of festive results. Two quality goals. Great experience for some academy players. MoM performance from @MichaelOlise10 #ReadingFC— Jonathan Richards (@JR_1871) January 5, 2020
In a very dim overall performance from Reading, there were two stand-out moments. Both Baldock and Loader took their goals beautifully - Baldock’s an instinctive first-time finish into the top corner, and Loader’s a cheeky backheel which bamboozled the Blackpool ‘keeper.
In truth, the goals were literally the only thing worth cheering on Saturday afternoon but nonetheless they gave the fans a bit of excitement and something to be positive about. Here’s what the fans had to say on Twitter post-game...
People saying he isnt good enough. He needs game time. He is class.— Max Cruttenden (@maxiebadger) January 4, 2020
That’s some finish - both our goals have been quality in a game where there has been little quality on show from us #Readingfc— Richard Saunders (@Richsaunders) January 4, 2020
Nice goal from Loader. Personally I think it would be a shame if we lost him. But back in the game, let’s go. #ReadingFC— Matt Glaysher (@GlaysherMatt) January 4, 2020
Great finish by Baldock. The definition of instinctive #readingfc— Andrew Savory (@adsavory) January 4, 2020
The FA Cup usually springs up good chances to give youngsters their first team debut, and Saturday afternoon was no different as young centre back Andre Burley became the 54th Reading academy player to make their way into the first team.
The match would’ve been a fantastic experience for the defender. He maybe didn’t have the strongest of games due to the stand-out performance of Blackpool’s Gnanduillet who caused not just Burley, but the entire defence numerous problems all afternoon.
However, it’s also great to see academy players make that transition into the first team and I hope it’s not the last time we see Burley and the other youngsters donning the hoops at the Mad Stad. And I think the majority of the fanbase agrees with me, although there were a few fans quick to point out Burley’s below-par performance...
Heard good things about Burley, great chance for him #readingfc— Alex Stone (@alexgstone) January 4, 2020
Massively mate. Baptism of fire for him today. Looked out of his depth. Don’t think he won a header all game, even against the smaller guys. But obviously got to start somewhere!— David Bird (@PolskaPollock) January 5, 2020
You know what? Burley has had a couple of absolutely crucial moments today #readingfc— Matthew Williamson (@Photomattic) January 4, 2020
If anyone is wondering who Burley is, he is a academy player making his debut. Best of luck mate. I hope you have a great game.— Reading FC Blue And White Wall (@bluewhitewall) January 4, 2020
A poor performance and a missed opportunity by a number of players to force themselves into Bowen’s first-team plans in the league. However, we’re still in the cup which is a positive and hopefully now our big guns will be fresh and ready to go for the game against Forest next Saturday - which is 100% a more important game than the FA Cup third round.
Onwards and upwards.