Reading made it two wins from two in Group O of the Papa John’s Trophy at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Tuesday night with Swindon the side put to the sword on this occasion.
After the Royals’ latest suckerpunch on the road three days’ earlier, this was in many ways the perfect rebound match. In front of perhaps the most febrile atmosphere the LDV Paint Trophy has seen for years (not like I’d know, this being my first-ever attendance at such a game), Reading time and again cut open the Sunday league-level reserves of a bog standard League Two team before nestling into a welcome international break where bigger matters will be focused on with a vital added dose of confidence.
There were shades of the 9-0 romp at Exeter when, after only 13 seconds, Ruben Selles’ side strolled past Swindon’s defence and Paul Mukairu shot wide. Andy Yiadom tested the goalkeeper on 11 minutes with the traffic flowing steadily in a singular direction. Harvey Knibbs opened the scoring thanks to a touch of fortune, having ghosted a cross before it landed right back at his feet via a shonky clearance, and he made no mistake for 1-0.
Reading didn’t quite catch alight for the rest of the half like in Devon, due to sketchy passes, touches or finishes in the final third letting Swindon off the hook, until Knibbs expertly guided Nesta Guinness-Walker’s cross home at the near post for 2-0 in stoppage time.
The contest was, if not already, over minutes into the second half when Mukairu won a stonewall penalty for Knibbs to tuck away. Hat-trick.
For large periods of the second half, the game drifted with Reading not so much dropping down into first gear as riding the clutch in neutral. A handful of fans, clearly discomforted by watching a Reading performance going exactly to plan, spiced things up with the odd decision to boo substitute Harlee Dean.
Not to be outdone for questionable decisions, one Swindon fan escaped his pen to invade the pitch and give it the big one to the Sir John Madejski Stand, in scenes so unthreatening that stewards casually wandered over to collect him, ruffle the loose change out of his fringe and pack him off for first-period Geography tomorrow morning.
The pre-season feel to the on-pitch action continued with Reading substituting their goalkeeper late on (just ‘cause) before a stoppage-time rally beefed up the scoreline. Caylan Vickers’ superb free-kick was tipped onto the post, only for Mukairu to head in the rebound. Harlee ‘persona non grata’ Dean then buried his own header in the 96th minute.
Arsenal Under-21s are next up at the SCL in mid-November to duke it out over top spot in Group O, before both take to the Checkatrade Leyland Rover Group Cup knockouts later this year. Que sera, sera...