Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - League Cup


READING 2 MK DONS 2

Reading: C Harriott (68), C Harriott (114)
MK Dons: D Bowditch (pen 34), K Tshimanga (118)

Full Time: 1-1
After Extra Time: 2-2
Reading win 4-2 on penalties

Jordan Obita hammered home the crucial fourth spot kick to send Reading through to the third round of the EFL Cup on penalties after the Royals had made hard work of a match they should have won comfortably. Both managers used the tie as an opportunity to take a look at new and relatively inexperienced players. Jaap Stam included debutants Liam Moore, Danzell Gravenbach and Liam Kelly in his starting eleven in a team loaded with promising youngsters and recent signings. It was far from Reading’s strongest team but still far superior to a similarly experimental MK Dons eleven.

For over half an hour the visitors found it hard to get out of their own half as Reading played the same system as in recent games passing the ball patiently across the back, retaining possession and looking to pass their way through and around their opponent's defence. Everything was going to plan apart from the final ball and the quality of finish. Harriot looked particularly sharp going past his man and firing in a couple of fierce shots from wide positions. Reading were forced to make a change when Rakkels sustained a nasty injury in a challenge on a Dons defender near the corner flag. Beerens came on to replace him on the left. On the other flank Harriot and Watson were combining well and getting behind the visitors defence. MK Dons were gifted the lead on thirty-five minutes when Cooper sold ‘keeper Jaakola short with an unbelievably sloppy back pass. Jaakola did his best to recover the situation as Tshimanga raced through, but appeared to clip the Dons forward and miss the ball on the edge of the box. The referee’s verdict was a penalty and a yellow card. (It might have been worse as there was no cover behind Jaakola.) The experienced Bowditch stepped up and confidently put the penalty in the net.

Reading resumed their assault on the Dons goal without really testing ‘keeper Nicholls. Mendes was working hard and causing problems and new signing Moore looked very comfortable at the back although he had little to do apart from playing short passes to Cooper or Watson. Kelly was by far the most impressive Reading player playing in central midfield. He used the ball well and was quick to break up Dons attempts to build an attack. Even a goal down at half time it always seemed likely that the Royals would come back and win the game.

Reading’s task was made harder when poor communication resulted in a second serious head injury to Kelly when he collided with Cooper. Both players required treatment but Keely was down for over five minutes and was eventually stretchered off. Evans was introduced and Gravenberch took over Kelly’s role in central midfield and was effective but not as lively. Frustration was beginning grow amongst the home fans as the slow build up from the back failed to produce the crucial strike on goal, although it has to be said even when Reading found space down the flanks the quality of ball into the box from wide positions was poor from just about everyone. Watson drew a good save from Nicholls with good strike from the edge of the box but time was running out for the Royals. It took a flash of individual brilliance from Harriot to bring the game back to the boil. He cut in from the left and lashed the ball past Nicholls. It was a magnificent strike from a player who had already shown how well he can strike a ball. Reading, even with the introduction of Williams, could not find the quality required to finish the job in normal time. Beerens had a shot saved and Mendes missed a good chance lashing the ball wide from close range when the ball was cut back to him in front of goal.

Reading looked woefully short of fitness as extra time wore on and MK Dons were able to get at Reading’s defence which was further hampered by an injury to Cooper. The visitors gave Reading a scare when in a matter of seconds Reeves hit the post and Rasalu hit the bar before the ball was scrambled away. Penalties loomed as the second period of extra time ticked away, but with only six minutes remaining Harriot came up with the goods again cutting in before striking the ball sweetly, but less spectacularly, past Nicholls into far corner for what appeared to be the winner. Not so. From a hotly disputed free kick MK Dons put Reading under pressure and when the ball popped over the Royals defence Tshimanga was sharp enough to get his shot in and although his first effort was blocked he reacted fastest to tuck way the rebound. Williams went down under a challenge in the box in the dying seconds. The referee was not interested and both teams massaged and stretched weary legs in preparation for the shoot-out. It was hard to find sufficient fit players to take the Reading spot kicks. Williams, Evans and Quinn scored the first three for Reading. Upson scored for MK Dons but Reeves blasted over and Jaakola saved from Carruthers, leaving Harriot the opportunity to crown his excellent performance with the winning penalty. Sadly for him he was not able to find the strike he was more than capable of, and so it was left to Obita to finish the job, which he did emphatically.
John Wells

This League Cup game took place 274 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.