Reading's Under-21s slipped to a narrow defeat at the hands of Southend United in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.
Southend United 1-0 Reading U21s
Theo Robinson's goal on the half-hour mark was the only separation between the sides on the night, with 10 Academy players making up the starting line-up for the Royals.
Despite a couple of penalty appeals and several solid efforts on goal for Scott Marshall's side, they left Roots Hall empty handed on the night.
Phil Brown's side only just missed out on the play-offs in League One last season, with a host of senior players on show and former Royal, Simon Cox, among the substitutes.
The Royals, meanwhile, were without Axel Andresson and Danny Loader, who are both away on international duty.
Despite the average age disadvantage, the Royals put their stamp on proceedings early on at Roots Hall, dominating possession in the opening exchanges.
The hosts posed an attacking threat, though, with quick-fire efforts from Dru Yearwood and Elvis Bwomono forcing George Legg into action, dealing with the danger comfortably.
Pelle Clement, gaining some valuable minutes in this encounter, then broke up the other end and threaded through for Sam Smith, who beat goalkeeper Mark Oxley to the ball, but the keeper smothered well to save.
The Blues got the breakthrough after the half-hour after Jermaine McGlashan broke on the right, sprinting 30 yards before crossing for Theo Robinson, who duly tapped in to give the League One side the lead.
The young Royals did not get their heads down, however, still pressing forward at every opportunity. They had appeals for a penalty waved away when Andy Rinomhota appeared impeded by two Southend defender, with no wrongdoing adjudged by the referee.
Scott Marshall had captain Gabriel Osho to thank for keeping the deficit to just one before the break, with the centre-back throwing everything to block Robinson's point-blanc shot that would have been a certain second.
The Royals came out in the second period with a higher tempo, bursting forward and cutting back for Smith, whose left-footed effort was always rising and flew over the bar.
Jake Sheppard did well to cut in from the right while under close marking by Stephen Hendrie, getting a shot off and forcing Oxley into a stretching save to his right.
There were also shouts for handball as Josh Barrett's effort struck a floored Blues defender, with the substitute also hitting the rebound that Oxley palmed away across goal for a corner.
The Royals should have had the equaliser when a corner was floated to the back post, driven back across and Barrett stabbed his effort just wide of the post from close range.
Reading U21s: Legg, Medford-Smith, Osho (C), Burley, Holmes, House (Barrett 67), East, Rinomhota (Frost 56), Sheppard, Clement, Smith.
Subs unused: Rosario, Howe, Rollinson, Shokunbi, Green.
Southend United: Oxley, Hendrie, Fortune, Yearwood, McGlashan (McLaughlin 90+1), Bridge (Cotton 73), Klass, Kyprianou, Robinson (Ba 67), Bwomono, White (C).
Subs unused: Bishop, Timlin, Cox, Matsuzaka.
Goals: Robinson 31
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: 1148 (40 from Reading)