Royals book a date at Huish ParkReading will travel to Yeovil Town in the Round of 16 in the Checkatrade Trophy, after progressing past Southampton on penalties after a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s.
The Royals went behind in the first period when Lloyd Isgrove punished a loose path in ruthless fashion – picking off the ball, driving at goal, and finishing decisively.
But Reading were a different prospect after the interval and defender Niall Keown headed the visitors level soon after the restart.
And, just like in Portsmouth during the group stages, it was another tense and drama filled shoot-out from which the Royals came out on top – with Yakou Meite slamming in the winning kick!
Martin Kuhl’s side had a mixture of youth and experience – Anssi Jaakkola, returning from injury, began between the sticks, while Meite, Tennai Watson, Niall Keown, Josh Barrett and captain Jake Cooper all have minutes for the first team.
At the younger end of the spectrum, Ramarmi Medford-Smith and Danny Loader both featured for the Under-18s against Man City less than a week ago in the FA Youth Cup.
And it was Meite, our summer arrival from Paris Saint-German, who fashioned the first chance – he cut in off the right and bent a shot into the arms of opposing stopper Harry Ward.
Between the other set of goalposts, Jaakkola was soon forced into his first save, thanks to some bold work from Saints defender Yan Valery. Skipping past a tackle, the full-back found room to pop a powerful shot away, but the Finn held well.
16-year-old Loader was next to go close for Reading, after some neat link-up on the right by Barrett and Watson – the latter’s cross was headed wide under pressure. At the other end, captain Cooper got a critical nick on the ball after the Royals had conceded possession high to allow Jonathan Afolabi a clean run on goal.
Southampton did have their opener on the half-hour mark though. The Royals had been probing patiently, but Sandro Wieser’s cross-field ball was picked off and punished ruthlessly by Isgrove, who made a mazy run before getting a clean strike beyond the reach of Jaakkola.
The scoreline could have been worse before the break as Saints captain Alfie Cook fired a shot which skipped off the wet surface, but Jaakkola managed to gather.
But Reading came out of the blocks quickly after the interval, and got back on terms within five minutes of the restart. Barrett delivered a whipped corner, which Keown was on hand to head in.
And the Royals began to besiege their hosts’ goal – Meite twice went close to giving the Royals the advantage. First, cutting in off the right, he had a low drilled shot save and held. And then when he unleashed a rocket of a right-footer, goalkeeper Harry Lewis did well to make a block, and needed his defence to hack clear before a rebound came in.
Some persistent play on the left by Barrett and Medford-Smith created an opening for Loader – the youngster’s side-footed effort faded off target from a promising position. And when Watson unleashed a vicious shot from the edge of the area, goalkeeper Ward needed his defence to clean up after the goalkeeper spilled a sodden ball on a rain-soaked surface.
The Saints’ chances were limited in the second period – Callum Slattery’s inswinging free-kick was a dangerous, but headed wide. Barrett tried to break the deadlock at the other end as he shimmied into space to shoot, but Lewis handled well.
The Royals were creating openings thick and fast and, in quick succession, Wieser had a shot blocked, Medford-Smith had a cross taken off the head of Loader, and Barrett saw a dipping effort crash off the woodwork, agonisingly.
And in the 89th minute, Barrett controlled a half-volley on his chest and kept his half-volley hard and low… only to see Lewis again make another remarkable low save.
That took the match to penalties – it took more heroics in the shoot-out by Jaakkola to give the Royals an early advantage. Frost, the scorer of the winning penalty in Portsmouth, had his saved at St Mary’s – but that mattered little when Meite drilled in a winner!
Full-time: Southampton 1-1 Reading
Reading win 4-3 on penalties
Southampton: Lewis, Isgrove, Little, Jones (c), Valery, Cook, O’Connor, Johnson (Mdlalose 69), Slattery, Vokins, Afolabi.
Unused subs: Parkes, Wood, Bakary, Rowthorn, Smallbone, Obafemi.
Goal: Isgrove (30).
Reading: Jaakkola, Watson, Medford-Smith, Cooper (c), Keown, Wieser, Rinomhota, Barrett, Loader, Meite, Smith (Frost 67).
Unused subs: Southwood, Vancooten, East, Bennett, Griffin.
Goal: Keown (51).
Jones saved (0-0)
Cooper scored (0-1)
O’Connor saved (0-1)
Wieser scored (0-2)
Slattery scored (1-2)
Watson scored (1-3)
Little scored (2-3)
Frost saved (2-3)
Isgrove scored (3-3)
Meite scored (3-4)