With the dangling carrot of a next round tie at home to Manchester United, I’m sure there were probably a few fans who were more than surprised to see a grand total of zero of the starting eleven from the win at Derby on Saturday in the match day 18 for Luton Town’s visit on Tuesday night.
However, when you look at it from Paunovic’s point of view - that theory becomes a bit more understandable. Veljko will still be looking at the likes of Aluko, McNulty and Baldock to see if he thinks they are good enough to be in and around the squad this season. Plus, with his experience of nurturing young talent, he’ll want to know what he’s working with when it comes to our academy players.
It was, however, an experiment that failed to pay off with Clarke’s header midway through the first half proving the difference between the two teams on the night.
Reading’s youthful team didn’t do themselves a disservice though, with the likes of Tetek, Holmes and McIntyre all catching the eye of the Loyal Royals. On the other hand, the ‘senior’ pro’s such as Aluko and McNulty flattered to deceive.
Here’s how the fans reacted on twitter after the game...
The need For signings
The old saying goes: if you don’t win, you learn. And if Veljko hadn't learnt by now - which I’m 99% sure he probably had - he definitely learnt on Tuesday night that we are in serious need of some reinforcements.
That was, effectively, our second team that played against Luton - which shows that there is no real strength in depth at this point in time, which I’m sure the club will address before the window shuts.
With rumours circulating on Twitter all the time, it doesn’t look too long before we really get going with our transfer business - and judging by the fans reaction, they want that business to start sooner rather than later...
Poor result in a pointless game. But Pauno can at least see where he needs to strengthen in the transfer window now. #readingfc— Steven Kemp (@kempy26783) September 15, 2020
So much strength in depth at this club!! Puscas so good he is replaced and Tommy boy is put up front! #ReadingFC— Scott McAulay (@scottymac80) September 15, 2020
First 11 have absolutely nothing to worry about . This has been dire abd thats being kind. pauno has a lot of work transfer wise to add strength in depth #ReadingFC— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) September 15, 2020
Fair play to the academy lads coming in and doing what they can, but hard to ignore the fact we have very little strength in depth. This is a very long season ahead and 2/3 injuries could really rock us. Hopefully we can get 4/5 in over the next few weeks #ReadingFC— Scott McAulay (@scottymac80) September 15, 2020
So frustrating when your second team front four costs £18m, and then losing the game and put an academy CB graduate up top to try and rescue. We just don’t have depth in attacking players! #readingfc— Max (@maxashley01) September 15, 2020
Really poor performance but didn't expect much else with that starting XI. Shows how poor our squad depth is and the reinforcements we need. Pauno is obviously prioritising the league, especially with the unlikely hood of us beating Man United if we did go through. #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) September 15, 2020
The only really meaningful thing we learnt from tonight is that Paunović now knows for sure we need better quality depth to the first 11 if we do get a few injuries/suspensions. I'm sure they are working on new recruits before the window shuts with Riquelme etc #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) September 15, 2020
I don’t think there are many that are blaming the nine academy graduates that made an appearance against Luton. But there was a lot of anger at the performances of the senior pros in the starting eleven - most noticeably Sone Aluko, Marc McNulty and Sam Baldock.
It was tricky for McNulty and Baldock in particular as they were asked to play in a position which is by no means they’re most preferred position. However, you do still expect to them to do more - especially when they’re playing with so many inexperienced players.
Going off Twitter after the game, many fans now think that that should be time up for the likes of Baldock, McNulty and Aluko after another drab performance...
And that’s why these lot aren’t first team. Youngster have nothing to worry about, however, Aluko, Baldock, McNulty and Araruna should be embarrassed. Up there with the Burton game a few years ago with how poor that was. #readingfc— m (@1871MTE) September 15, 2020
What a mess that was but its confirmation of what we all knew - time to ship out Aluko, McNutter and Baldock. No time for passengers ! #readingfc— Neil Palmer (@neilpalmerphoto) September 15, 2020
McNulty is terrible. Cant even find a 2 yard pass. Doubt we will see him in a #ReadingFC shirt again now he has gone off.— Jamie Hodder (@Jamie_Hodder21) September 15, 2020
McNulty and Aluko need to be sold by the end of the transfer window. Not sure what Paunovic sees in them #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) September 15, 2020
Well I don't think any of the veterans covered themselves in glory tonight. Good for the youngsters to get a run out, I'm not sure Aluko, Baldock, Watson, McNulty are good enough. Hopefully Paunovic learnt about the team depth of quality and character as his disposal #readingfc— Sean Mobsby (@SeanMobsby) September 15, 2020
At least Pauno will have "seen enough" of certain individuals that shouldn't wear the shirt again. He's clearly sending a message that we don't have enough wingers, too. Baldock, Aluko, McNulty - their faces have never fitted here. If we can dispose of them, we should. #readingfc— BobbinsRoyale (@BobbinsRoyale) September 16, 2020
Thought aluko wasn’t THAT bad today.. he wasn’t the reason we lost that game. Baldock was absent for a lot and McNulty actually played well... for Luton #readingfc— Trenchcoat (@Adamhumphries44) September 15, 2020
The academy players
Although we lost, and the senior players didn’t cover themselves in glory - it was a good chance to see a number of academy players get a run out for the first time (albeit that being more through lack of choice for Paunovic).
17 year-old Dejan Tetek was the man to make his first professional start and he was probably Reading’s best player on the night. He looked more than comfortable in centre midfield. He was positive on the ball, ran at the opposition and looked to play forward whenever he got the ball.
Others such as Holmes, Southwood and McIntyre impressed the fans too, whereas youngsters Sakkey, Melvin-Lambert and Nelson Abbey all got their debuts, too...
Tetek also deserves a big shout for his performance today. Paunovic will not get to see those kids and fringe players play against good opposition every week.— Ranty McRantface (@RantyMkRantface) September 15, 2020
So giving them a full game to do that and stick to what he said about giving everyone a fair chance is ok in my book.
Tennai back in from the FREEZING cold, you love to see it. #readingfc— george (@sixersgeorge) September 15, 2020
At a glance— Matheus na Casa (@maffff) September 15, 2020
Positives: Southwood, TMc, Holmes, Tetek and Sackey. Bristow had some decent bits too.
Negatives: the seasoned professionals. Must be time for many of those to move on.#ReadingFC
Back 5 was ok tonight. Like Araruna and Bristow the more I see them. Aluko was alright, had a good 45th-70th. Like the look of Tetek a lot, good performance from him I thought #readingfc— Max Howard (@MaxHoward_15) September 15, 2020
Really impressed with Bristow agai. Looks a real player. #readingfc— Ed Ryding (@EdRyding) September 15, 2020
Tetek only one to come out of that with any credit. Woeful woeful performance #ReadingFC— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) September 15, 2020
Maybe a chance missed to get through the next round, but looking at the bigger picture, this result is not a result that will define our season by any stretch of the imagination. Win against Barnsley and this result will be forgotten very quickly - it should be forgotten quickly anyway in my opinion.
Time to get some reinforcements, bolster the squad depth and really get kicking.