Last season, we began our first Checkatrade Trophy campaign in nearly 15 years as our Category One Academy status earned our young players competitive action against first team opposition. Tonight, we begin a new adventure as the cup tournament begins afresh.
Before last season's run to the last sixteen, Reading Football Club last entered the Football League Trophy in 2001-2 when, as a third tier side led by Alan Pardew, we reached the quarter-finals thanks to a Second Round win in the then-named LDV Vans Trophy against Colchester United more than 15 years ago!
This evening, we meet United once again in the first of three group games at the start of our new Checkatrade Trophy campaign - and a host of young Royals starts are sure to benefit from the experience of the competition just as last season's crop did.
It all began with a win over Bristol Rovers in a five-goal thriller at the Memorial Stadium last August. A see-saw game for a young Royals squad ended with three points as they overcame their League 1 hosts by a 3-2 scoreline thanks to goals from ;Jack Stacey, Jake Sheppard and finally a Joseph Mendes penalty.
Rovers had twice levelled through Matty Taylor and Jermaine Easter, but Reading emerged victorious to kick start their campaign with a vital win.
The next group game came saw us travel to the south coast for a meeting with a Portsmouth side who would go on to earn promotion at the end of the season.
They could only muster a draw with the Royals' youngsters at the start of October though; Reading had taken a two goal lead through Andrija Novakovich and Joseph Mendes, but a Curtis Main brace earned Pompey a point.
However, it was Reading who took the bonus point from the tie in a penalty shootout win...four superb saves from Anssi Jaakkola during the shootout helped the Royals to victory, with 17-year-old Tyler Frost converting the winning penalty for Reading!
With progression in the competition already assured, the Royals were defeated in the final group game of the tournament - losing 2-0 to Yeovil Town at the Madejski but going through to the knockout stages to meet Southampton's Category One Academy side.
And another dramatic penalty shootout win saw us emerge victorious from St Mary's before Christmas; a Niall Keown header pegged Saints back after Lloyd Isgrove's opener and two more saves from spot from Jaakkola took the Royals into the Third Round and another meeting with the Glovers for a place in the quarter-finals!
At Huish Park, our run came to an end after Sandro Wieser's 18th minute dismissal allowed Yeovil to take a 2-0 lead into the break which they refused to relinquish - despite second half goals from Novakovich and Josh Barrett, Town held on to the win which was to knock the Royals out.
In total, we fielded a total of 28 players across those five Trophy ties - including the likes of Danny Loader, Sam Smith, Omar Richards and Andy Rinomhota, who have all used that experience in making their first team debuts for Reading this season!
Here's to another Chackatrade Trophy adventure and the opportunitiy for more of our young players to shine against League One and League Two opposition!