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22:45 24th August 2010

Report: Royals out on penalties

Reading 3 (Mills 17, 113, Robson-Kanu 62)
Northampton 3 (Holt 20, Thornton 64, Mills og 120)

Northampton win 4-2 on penalties

The Royals went out of the Carling Cup on Tuesday evening after a below par performance against Northampton at Madejski Stadium.

We lead three times on the night, and had two fantastic penalty shouts incredibly waved away, one of them just seconds before the Cobblers snatched an equaliser with the last kick of the game; five minutes into injury time when a minimum of three had been shown by the referee.

But credit Northampton for a good performance, they showed great resilience to fight back from a deficit on three occasions and took full advantage of any breaks that came their way.

Matt Mills scored twice for the Royals, while Hal Robson-Kanu got his first goal in a Reading shirt. Brian Howard also came close to finding the net, clipping the bar with a free kick. Jake Taylor made his Reading debut, playing out of position at right back after Julian Kelly went off injured, and it was harsh on Taylor that he missed a penalty, having bravely stepped up from 12 yards.

Reading (4-4-2): Hamer; Kelly (Taylor 50), Williams, Mills (c), Pearce; Karacan, Howard, Antonio (Kebe HT), Robson-Kanu; Church, Hunt (Long 93)
Subs: Federici; Gunnarsson, McAnuff, Sigurdsson
Booked: Mills (foul 23), Howard (foul 25), Williams (foul 120)

Northampton (4-4-2): Jansson, Rodgers, Hall, Thornton, Beckwith; Osman, Purcell (Konstantinou 109), Holt (c), Wedderburn; Herbert (Jacobs 64), McKay (Guinan 83)
Subs: Walker, Harris, Konstantinou, Death, Slowe
Booked: Purcell (foul 107), Guinan (dissent 120)

Attendance: 6,986 (644)

Ref: R East

Our official teamsheet is available here

Starting XI team news
Brian McDermott made six changes from Saturday's game with Nottingham Forest, giving first starts of the season to Noel Hunt, Hal Robson-Kanu and Julian Kelly. Michail Antonio, Ben Hamer and Simon Church also came in.

First half
Reading started with excellent attacking intent, Michail Antonio going on a very incisive run down the right wing with only two minutes gone, Noel Hunt's cross causing problems for the visiting defence.

We had a stonewall penalty incredibly turned down on six minutes, Julian Kelly clearly fouled inside the box. Kelly was in in the starting XI for his first appearance since last year's second round of the Carling Cup, and was clearly brought down but referee Roger East gave nothing - and the linesman on the near side could arguably have helped his colleague.

Antonio was playing well down the right, and Hal Robson-Kanu headed over a tough chance on 14 minutes after a cracking cross from Antonio on the other flank.

Three minutes later the breakthrough came with an excellent finish from Matt Mills. Brian Howard took a low free kick on the left wing, and Mills had worked himself some space, planting home an excellent volley on the turn with the outside of his boot, great footwork from the skipper.

Unfortunately the lead only lasted three minutes as the visitors were handed an equaliser. The Cobblers had a right wing corner, and Ben Hamer came to gather above a couple of players. He made contact, and the ball fell to his feet, where he gathered it in his hands. He looked to find a teammate, but allowed the ball to spill from his grasp and Andy Holt stabbed home from 12 yards.

The visitors looked for a quick second, and Billy McKay turned a neat effort just wide of the post after a tidy cross.

Reading were then very close to going back in front, Howard clipping the bar with an excellent free kick from 22 yards.

A moment later Simon Church had a decent chance as his header was well saved by Oscar Jansson, and the Welsh international forward perhaps felt he was about to be given offside and could have guided his header a little more.

The last 15 minutes of the half were pretty even as Northampton defended well and looked comfortable when in possession. Mills nearly notched his second just before the break though, heading narrowly wide from a corner.

Second half
Antonio was unfortunately withdrawn at half time through injury, and it was a shame as he had played well - but in Jimmy Kebe we had a ready-made replacement.

We lost another player four minutes into the half, Kelly making a great tackle to prevent an excellent chance for the visitors but hurting himself in the process. It was harsh on Kelly, who had put in a good performance at right back, On in his place was Jake Taylor, the Welsh u21 international making his debut and slotting in at right back although normally a midfielder.

Just before the hour Robson-Kanu went on a great break from Hunt's pass, but should perhaps have looked for Kebe with a pass instead of going for goal, becoming crowded out on the edge of the area.

Within minutes though the winger had found the back of the net for his first goal in a Reading shirt. A cross from the right resulted in an almighty scramble, Howard, Karacan and Hunt all having a go before Robson-Kanu lashed home.

Again though the lead did not last long, and Town were level within two minutes. Referee East played a decent advantage, and the visitors whipped in a low cross from the left, nothing more Hamer could do as he got down low to block the cross but Kevin Thornton prodded home.

Former Northampton loanee Alex Pearce was then inches wide with a header from a corner. Reading couldn't find their fluency, but similarly credit to Northampton for a very hardworking display.

Thornton nearly scored a sensational goal with only three minutes to go, dancing through four or five defenders, only for Hamer to make a good low save.

In injury time Town broke well, but Taylor was back in a good position to avert the danger. From the resulting corner the ball was worked back out to Thornton on the left, and his low cross was turned into the net by sub Steve Guinan - but thankfully the offside flag went up straight away. We broke immediately, but as Kebe tried to find Hunt in the middle we lost possession and that was the last meaningful action of the 90 minutes.

Our team talk then had to take place out on the pitch, and as the players gathered around Brian McDermott it was clear he was leaving the players in no uncertain terms about how he felt about the performance.

Extra time
Kebe seemed to have a decent headed chance six minutes into extra time, but failed to properly direct his effort. The Cobblers broke immediately, but sub Michael Jacobs' effort was wild.

Hamer made an excellent save as the game reached its 100th minute, denying the lively Jacobs after an incisive run - although the Cobblers really should have scored from the rebound before Mills brilliantly slid in to clear. Down the other end, Robson-Kanu's header from Kebe's cross was well directed but lacked any real venom and was easily saved.

Sub Shane Long hit a cracking effort minutes into the second period of extra time, Jansson called into action with a good save away to his right.

Then with eight minutes remaining Mills powered home a fabulous header from Howard's corner to seemingly send us through to the next round.

With time almost up, we were denied a clear, clear penalty as Long was unquestionably tripped inside the area but inexplicably nothing was given. It was, quite simply, the incorrect decision and the second time we had been denied a clear spot kick. We were left to rue that moment.

With 120 minutes up, Northampton clawed their way back level. Marcus Williams gave away a free kick, and Town threw everyone forward, including keeper Jansson. An almighty scramble ensued, and Jacobs' drilled cross hit the unfortunate Mills and flew into his own net.

And so it was into penalties. When Church saw his first one saved, Northampton never looked like passing the advantage back to the Royals. When Jake Taylor put his effort wide, Abdul Osman was able to seal the win, and although Hamer got a hand to it it was enough to send the Cobblers through.

So overall it was a hugely disappointing result. We were below par, and Brian McDermott said exactly that in his post-match assessment. How we were not given at least one of those penalty claims was quite something, but we should not take too much away from the visitors, who performed with great spirit to send their name into Saturday's draw.

Penalties in detail
0-0 Church - saved by Jansson to his right.
0-1 Guinan - scored high to 'keeper's right.
1-1 Long - scored low to 'keeper's right.
2-1 Thornton - scored to 'keeper's left.
2-2 Robson-Kanu - scored to keeper's right
3-2 Jacobs - scored to 'keeper's right
3-2 Taylor - missed wide to 'keeper's right
4-2 Osman - scored to 'keeper's left

    Data provided by Press Association