Reading FC Match Report: 2022/2023 Season - League Cup


READING 1 STEVENAGE 2

Reading: K Ehibhationham (63)
Stevenage: S Earley (10), D Rose (89)

With all but four of the starting eleven from the recent league victory rested, it was no surprise that Reading were dumped out of the EFL Cup in the First Round for the third season in succession. Reading have, as many clubs always fielded a weakened team in this competition, particularly at this stage so it would be unfair to criticise Paul Inca for doing the same. This season however, the impact of a long injury list was the necessity to select even greater proportion of inexperienced players. Nevertheless this group of players thrown together came close to taking the game to penalties. This opportunity was denied by a last minute winner scored by Rose sweeping home a cross at the far post from close range. Stevenage deserved the victory which now extends their winning run to the beginning of season with the third win in succession.

The habit a falling behind to an early goal this season continued, literally, with a goal from Stevenage's Saxon Earley after ten minutes. There were gaping holes the Reading defence which were exploited as the visitors who passed the ball around Reading's box before an unmarked Earley side-footed past Bouzakis. Stevenage dominated possession in the first half as Reading, clearly lacking confidence and organisation frequently resorted relieved pressure by hitting long speculative passes which failed to produce a single shot of target before the interval. New signing Loum showed signs of quality which indicated his suitability to challenge for a first team football, a notion later confirmed by manger Inca confirmed. Neither side however, threatened to score for the remainder of a dull and predictable first half.

The introduction of Clarke and Camara ten minutes into the second half injected a bit of urgency in to proceedings going forward. After sixty-three minutes Camara slid a delightfully timed and weighted pass through the Stevenage defence to create the first scoring opportunity for the home side. Ehibhatrionham outpaced the defence, and opened up his body to allow him to calmly beat Chapman for the equaliser. His finish and all round contribution was sufficient to justify his inclusion in the squad for Saturday.

The equaliser triggered a spell of pressure which briefly raised hopes of a second Reading goal. Stevenage weathered the storm and re-established their grip on the game. Reading's sloppy defending finally put pay to their chances of progression in the competition. Sweeny, given acres of space and plenty of time to curl a diagonal pass into the Reading box and an unmarked Rose at the far post fired past Bouzakis from close range to restore the visitors lead. Bouzakis didn't have much to do but he looked distinctly uneasy dealing with crosses and generally failed to inspire confidence.

Reading threw launched a final onslaught in search of a second equaliser and were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty when Ehibhatrionham was taken out in the box, but instead referee Brook awarded a free for a collision in the box immediately before the assault on Ehibhatrionham he adjudged to be a foul on Bothwick. So Reading are out of the EFL Cup, but I don't think the Reading management team are too bothered. At this stage reducing the number of injured experienced players is an understandably higher priority.

John Wells

This League Cup game took place 47 days ago in the 2022/2023 season.