Royals boss reacts to cup exit but fine performanceDespite defeat against top flight opposition in the Capital One Cup tonight, it perhaps gives an indication of how good tonight's performance was from a team that saw eight changes in total and included four full debutants, when the manager utters the words "I think it's a good time to be a Reading fan," after the game.
"My first instinct is that we didn't deserve to lose the game. I thought we played really well," Steve Clarke explained. "I'm disappointed to have been knocked out and to get done on two set plays, but I didn't think we were under real threat from Everton in open play. We defended well, created a lot for ourselves, it was a good performance.
"First half especially, I thought we were teriffic. We passed the ball well and created a lot of problems for a team who are in the top six in the Premier League - and with a little bit of luck we might have found ourselves more than one goal in front at the interval.
"But I think we started the second half a little bit tentatively and they made a change in bringing Garath Barry on, that gave them a bit more presence in midfield, he was a calming influence for them, he gave them a bit more stability.
"We went out there knowing we were 1-0 up, knowing we were in with a chance of causing a big shock and we started it a bit too tentative. And although they were on top in the second half, I never thought they were too much of a threat.
"The first goal came from a second ball from a corner which we didn't defend properly, and it was a good strike through a crowd of bodies. And the second one is a good free kick from Deulofeu which we should have defended better.
"But as I say, they didn't really open us us, there wasn't a point in the game where I thought we were getting murdered. We were in reasonable control besides those two goals conceded from set plays."
"Even when we were behind, there was no panic, we stayed in the game, kept pushing. The game goes to 2-1 and Everton start to sit on it and try to defend it out, which gave us the opportunity to get into the final third and we created one or two opportunities near the end that maybe could have taken the game to extra time. But it didn't happen."
The strength in depth of the squad was evident for all to see, with Ola John, Lucas Piazon, Jake Cooper, Alex Fernandez and Paolo Hurtado all getting their first starts of the campaign and impressing in front of the Madejski Stadium faithful.
"It was good quality from Ola John with the cross for the goal, Lucas Piazon came into the team and added quality, Paolo Hurtado too - it was nice for the Reading fans to see the type of players we have brought to the club.
"I can't say I was surprised, because I've seen them working in training and I know the quality we've got in this group. They all acquitted themselves really well tonight and the two young central defenders were outstanding.
"In the first half they were asked big questions against Lukaku and Kone and they dealt with it very well. Second half, it was a different challenge for them with Barkley playing in behind Lukaku, but they dealt with that really well too. The flair players will priobably get a few more column inches, but the two central defenders were excellent.
"I was looking forward to seeing these players out on the field tonight. If you look at the squad we've got - we should be able to put out a competitive team every week.
"Different...you look at the skills that Hurtado, Ola John and Lucas have maybe given us something different, something we haven't had before, but it was good for me to see and good for the boys to get a chance to play in a game like that."