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🏆 Match report | Valiant display ends in cup exit for young Royals

Superb second half performance counts for nothing as young Royals si bow out

9 January 2021

A much-changed Royals side that saw three Academy graduates make their first team debuts at Kenilworth Road ended their Third Round clash with slender defeat and cup exit - but a superb second half display promised so much more as Reading found themselves hugely unfortunate to bow out.

Twice the Royals hit the crossbar and the Luton stopper saved the Hatters side on countless occasions, but an equaliser never came.

The hosts enjoyed the early possession and a good early defensive header from Dorsett and two timely defensive interventions from Pendlebury earned the young players a chance to get into the game.

Ryan Tunnnicliffe was posing a threat to the Reading defence, slicing a first time volley over the crossbar from 15 yards out. And Bristow did well to see off a counter attack led by Nombe down the right.

At the other end a nice move involving Esteves and Auko alolowed Pendlebury to deliver a low cross into the near post but the Luton defender got to it before Baldock to get a toe to the ball.

Bristow then got into some space down the left but his cross was cleared before it could land at Aluko's feet.

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The youngsters were showing glimpses of their talent and Onen won a free kick on the very edge of the penalty area down the left when he was barged over as he looked to deliver a cross into the box. Olise's set piece was headed clear.

A host of Reading bodies raced out to charge down a Moncur effort that was heading goalwards - the ball arriving at the midfielder's feet after Luton had earned the space to carve out a dangerous cross from the right.

But the deadlock was broken when a hopeful up and under cross from the right dropped to the unnoticed Moncur in the box and he placed a volley wide of Luke Southwood's sprawling dive and inside the right post.

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Reading looked to respond and good work from Onen down the left earned Aluko a shooting opportunity. Twisting and turning he pulled the trigger with his right foot but his effort from distance bobbled just wide of the bottom left corner.

Moments later Sluga had to parry a well-struck Pendlebury effort to preserve the home side's lead. And then Aluko wormed his way along the byline only for the ball to just go out of play before he could find a shot or a cut back.

Olise twice looked to take aim as we entered the final couple of minutes of the half, but on both occasions a Luton body arrived to do enough to put him off his balance and prevent Sluga from being tested.

Half-time: Luton Town 1-0 Reading

The visitors came out of the blocks fast, looking for an equaliser and Aluko saw a shot charged down in the opening minutes. Then Pendlebury crossed into a good position from the right only for it to sail between blue and white bodies and to a Luton head which cleared.

Town very nearly added a second though when a deep cross was headed back into the six yard box by Tunnicliffe and Hylton was looking to turn it home from a yard or two out but Southwood smothered it and clutched onto the ball on his goalline.

Moments later, Reading nearly had their leveller - Sluga parried a fierce Semedo strike and it took two last gast tackles from Osho to prevent Baldock from pouncing on the loose ball and testing Sluga himself.

A quick throw nearly unlocked the Luton defence, Bristow feeding Baldock who found Aluko in behind his man. He wriggled to the byline and cut a ball back that was just beyond the boot of Baldock and which Onen could only strike late into the orange-socked leg of a Luton player.

And the woodwork saved the hosts just after the hour. Esteves was found on the overlap down the right and his low ball wasn't cleared, allowing Aluko to pounce. Six yards out he raced to the loose ball and got to it first but smashed the ball against the crossbar when ti seemed a deserved equaliser was on the cards.

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Esteves brilliantly weaved his way forward and skipped through a number of challenges before taking aim and it took a good low save from Sluga to push the ball wide. 

Baldock was next to direct the ball on target, getting his head to Onen's cross but not able to generate the power to trouble the Luton keeper.

Then Olise took aim and Sluga was down well again, tipping the ball wide of the left post with a fingertip save. 

Southwood had been largely a spectator in the second half but he was alert to a Tunnicliffe cross shot that threatened to sneak inside the near post.

Again Reading could gave found their goal when Baldock scampered towards the edge of the box and forced a good low save from Sluga with a low drilled effort. Onen latched onto the rebound but Sluga again parried his stabbed effort.

Two more debutants entered the field for the visitors - Conor Lawless and Mamadi Camara both introduced for the final ten minutes along with Nahum Melvin-Lambert.

Reading had nine of their eleven players, Academy graduates - the other two being 19-year-old Jayden Onen and 18-year-old Tomas Esteves. And they continued to press for a goal that might force extra time.

But the 90 ticked away and four minutes of injury time elapsed - only after Reading had a glorious late chance to level. Tetek found Melvin-Lambert and he dinked a shot over the onrishing Sluga but against the crossbar. Onen followed it in but could only place his right-foored rebound over from 12 yards out.

It was an agonising end to what was a very brave display from a young Royals side. But it finished in our FA Cup exit.

Full-time: Luton Town 1-0 Reading

Luton Town: Sluga, Potts (c), Tunnicliffe, Hylton, Lee (Berry 73), Moncur, Galloway (Norrington-Davies 74), Bree (Clark 59), Nombe (LuaLua 81), Morrell, Osho.
Unused subs: Cornick, Lockyer, Rea, Mpanzu, Isted.
Goals: Moncur 30

Reading: Southwood, Esteves, Bristow, Dorsett, McIntyre, Pendlebury, Semedo (Lawless 78), Olise (Camara 78), Onen, Aluko (Tetek 72), Baldock (c) (Melvin-Lambert 78).
Unused subs: Boyce-Clarke, Samuels, Richards, Holmes.

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