From Veljko Paunovic’s comments in his pre-match media duties, I think we all expected to see a much-changed line-up for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Luton Town, and he stuck to his word. There was no Josh Laurent, Andy Rinomhota, Lucas Joao, Ovie Ejaria, Michael Morrison, Rafael, Omar Richards, John Swift or George Puscas to be seen anywhere in the squad, which I think tells us all Paunovic’s priorities this season.
You can understand that point of view for a few different reasons: a) our position in the league b) the already hectic schedule and c) the fact that we don’t have the squad depth of our Championship rivals. But I still think there may be a few fans who are quietly annoyed that we’ve fallen at the first hurdle.
However, there were a lot of positives to take from Saturday lunchtime’s game. The players that came in, who were mainly promoted from the under-23s, did themselves and our youth system very proud with their performance. Unfortunately, they just lacked that end product.
On the whole though, the fans were happy with what they saw. Here’s how they reacted after the game...
The fact that a huge amount of our key players were rested meant that chances arose for a number of academy players. Oli Pendlebury made his first professional start in the heart of midfield and looked at home at this level, highly rated Jeriel Dorsett showed promise and Luke Southwood proved again he’s more than a handy back-up to Rafael.
For the last 10 minutes or so, 10 out of the 11 players on the pitch were academy players, which is a wonderful thing to say. After taking a half to find their feet, the youngsters looked really good after the break, but just lacked that killer instinct. Overall though, the fans were impressed...
Solid display from Dorsett . Decent on the ball as well always found a pass very impressive #readingfc— Mark Yeoman (@markyeoman12) January 9, 2021
ATTENTION DING SUPPORTERS— Luke (@Luke1871_) January 9, 2021
Calm it down a tad, our U23s put up a valiant effort (second half especially). Plenty of positives to take. Our academy is brilliant. We lost but went down fighting #readingfc
Absolute pain to lose that but the future looks bright.— Matt (@lines_aviation) January 9, 2021
Academy is in such a good place right now.
-Likely to loose 3 graduates to top European teams in 12 months.
-18(?) academy players playing first team games this season. #Readingfc
Well that was one for the purists only. #Readingfc can be proud we ended the game with 10 Academy players on the pitch. And got what you’d expect from kids - talented moments but missing that extra yard of pace, strength, sharpness & decision making you get from age & experience.— Matt Williams (@mattwilliams100) January 9, 2021
Decent performance from #readingfc. Some of the young lads showing promise. Could and should have got a result.— Dave Roberts (@LaughingLima) January 9, 2021
FT 1-0 Loss. How we didn’t score I’ll never know. First half cost us massively. We’ve got so much talent in our academy. All in all, I’m not that bothered. Pendlebury and Southwood are my MOTM #readingfc https://t.co/T4u0WMN86K— Luke (@Luke1871_) January 9, 2021
Pendlebury is a serious talent. Get him a 5-year contract. #readingfc— Jamie (@dingfcjamie) January 9, 2021
For all of Reading’s good play in the second half, they just couldn’t find that killer touch, which left the fans very frustrated. How Sone Aluko hit the bar I will never know, while Jayden Onen and Nahum Melvin-Lambert were both also guilty of missing a couple of really good chances.
Everything up to the final shot was brilliant in the second half, but those are the fine margins that win or lose you games. You have to wonder, if it were someone like Puscas on the end of those chances, whether we’d be out the cup or not.
Here’s how the fans reacted...
That was poor from Aluko needs to score from there! #readingfc— The Robbos Gobcast Sports Show (@RGobcastShow) January 9, 2021
Not sure how we failed to score in that match. Criminal miss from Aluko imo. Bristow was given the runaround down his flank but credit to all the academy boys for their effort. Southwood looked particularly assured. Also, Esteves hate is unwarranted, he is quality. #readingfc— Ewan Sparrow (@ewan_sparrow) January 9, 2021
Overall I think we were much the better side, had plenty of chances, Baldock, Esteves, Olise, Onen, hitting the bar with Aluko and ML. Just didn't take them. Good 2nd half but just have to score the Aluko/ML/Onen chances. Think we win if it goes to ET. Unlucky boys #readingfc— Max Howard (@MaxHoward_15) January 9, 2021
That has to be one of the worst misses in recent seasons from Aluko. Wow. #readingfc— Jacob (@JacobHawley0) January 9, 2021
Not quite sure how we didn't win that game. All over Luton in the second half but just didn't take our chances. Time to focus on the league now. #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) January 9, 2021
Aluko really is technically brilliant. It’s actually really difficult to get it over the bar from that distance. #readingfc— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) January 9, 2021
All eyes on the league
Whether you agree with it or not, Paunovic showed on Saturday that all of his proverbial eggs are in the promotion basket. I know it would’ve been nice to progress further in the cup and I actually do think that Pauno could’ve taken it a bit more seriously and included players like Swift or Puscas to help them progress in their recovery.
However, it just wasn't to be, and I think the large majority of the fanbase do understand Pauno’s point of view and have themselves already switched their attentions back to the league...
All our managers over recent years have done the same. Unlikely to progress that far in cup even with stronger team. Much better IMO to concentrate on league particularly with the insane fixture schedule. #readingfc— Andy C #FBPE (@AndyRFCCharman) January 9, 2021
Good experience for the young lads, and distraction of the cup gone. Good break for the first team, time to focus completely on the league. #readingfc— Stuart (@fents17) January 9, 2021
Well played to are youngsters the better side lost complete dominated the last hour of that game and hit the bar twice I think we would of gone on to win that but I am glad we have no distractions now in the league #Readingfc— CooperRoyals (@RobertC89059161) January 9, 2021
Good experience for the youngsters today. All about concentrating on the league now #readingfc— AidenRFC (@AidenRFC_) January 9, 2021
Putting the FA cup to shame, using it as a way to give youth game time now rather than actually trying to win it, may as well be a friendly. I guess it means we can focus on the league which is good but it’s still frustrating#readingfc https://t.co/77XhWxLKst— Dan (@ding_dan_18) January 9, 2021
All in all, frustrating to be dumped out both cups by Luton but we’ve beaten them in the league, which is what really matters. We now move forward with less fixture congestion, an almost fully fit first team and a real chance of league success this season #readingfc— Ewan Sparrow (@ewan_sparrow) January 9, 2021
Getting the off FA Cup Saturday off now will really help in the league with the fixture congestion. Pauno knows that and that’s why he picked the team he did. Still not sure on Olise’s inclusion though #readingfc— Mark Fidgett (@MarkFidgett) January 9, 2021
A frustrating result and outcome but a positive performance. Hindsight is great so it's easy for us to say Pauno should’ve played some more ‘senior’ players, but that doesn't guarantee a better result.
Pauno’s choices can't be changed now so it’s important we just look forward to the rest of the Championship season.