A youthful Exeter City side suffered a record home defeat at the hands of a ruthless Reading side, who scored nine unanswered goals on a night to forget at St James Park.
Seven second half goals added to two in the first period, as the Royals put City to the sword in the first group G game of the EFL Trophy. Tom McIntyre set the away side on their way after only three minutes, before Zak Jules turned into his own net before the break.
A Paul Mukairu double and goals from Dom Ballard, Ben Elliott and Taylan Harris inflicted further damage before Caylan Vickers and a second for Ballard rubbed salt into the wounds.
City ended the match with an entire outfield of academy players, with only goalkeeper Gary Woods over the age of 19, as debuts were handed to Aamir Stanford Daniels, Sam Joce, Alfie Cunningham Max Edgecombe and Theo Cutler.
Manager Gary Caldwell made nine changes from Saturday’s 1-0 win against Cheltenham. Caleb Watts made his first start for The Grecians after his second half volley secured three points at the weekend, whilst Jack Fitzwater debuted at wing-back. Kyle Taylor captained City on his first start since returning from injury.
Reading took an early lead courtesy of Royals captain McIntyre who fired one across Woods’ goal, finding its way in at the back-post.
City continued to find themselves on the backfoot with flashes of inspiration coming from Kyle Taylor on the left-wing. Taylor shrugged off the challenges of three Reading players to find James Scott through on goal, albeit in a position that the ref later deemed to be offside - blowing the whistle before Scott could get off what would have been City’s first shot of the game.
Reading found a second just after the half-hour mark as Matthew Carson put a low-driven cross into the corridor of uncertainty, to find an uncertain Jules who, with some misfortune, deflected the ball into an open net with his chest.
The first half closed with Woods pulling off an excellent save to prevent McIntyre from scoring his second of the night. The Reading captain couldn’t have done more, driving a header low at The Big Bank back-post, only to be met by the outstretched glove of a diving Woods.
The second half opened with a trading of yellow cards. Taylor’s delightful chop in the centre circle drew a yellow card from McIntyre. Whilst City’s yellow came courtesy of a passionate challenge from debutant Stanford Daniels.
Reading’s barrage of opportunities continued to pay dividends as Mukairu found himself on the edge of the box. With a wall of City defenders in his way, he calmly dragged the ball back to create enough space to curl an impressive effort into the top-right corner, hitting the post on its way in to put Reading three up. Four minutes later, Mukairu found himself as one of three Royals behind the City backline, calmly slotting one past Woods’ left to complete his brace.
Midway through the second half, City made a double change, seeing Scott and Jules replaced by Cutler and Edgecombe, as they make their first team debuts.
Sonny Cox beat his man 30 yards out to take a shot from distance, City’s first and only shot of the night.
Reading substitute Ballard headed in a cross at the back post for Reading’s fifth of the evening before Caldwell handed out more debuts to youngsters from City’s academy. Joce and Cunningham came on to replace Fitzwater and Taylor, as the captains armband was given to Pedro Borges.
The final 15 minutes of the game became an exhibition match for the travelling Reading supporters as the Royals continued to pepper City’s goal scoring four more, each 5 minutes apart. Elliott popped up in the box to poke home the sixth, before Harris bent a low effort into Woods’ bottom right-hand corner. Vickers made it eight from close range before Ballard inflicted the final wound of the evening.
City’s youthful side will be disappointed with their showing this evening, but will have a chance to put it right in three weeks time when Arsenal U21s visit for the second group match. But first, the senior side head to Oxford United on Saturday as they look to continue their fantastic start to the League One season.
Exeter City: Woods, Watts (Stanford Daniels), O’Connor, Fitzwater (Joce), Jules (Edgecombe), Beardmore, Borges, Richards, Taylor (Cunningham), Cox, Scott (Cutler).
Subs: MacDonald, Oakes.
Reading: Boyce-Clarke (GK), Elliott (Harris), McIntyre ( C ) (Dorsett), Dean, Mukairu (Knibbs), Wareham (Ballard), Mbengue (Abrefa), Craig, Rushesha, Vickers, Carson
Subs: Pereira (GK), Tuma.
Referee: Carl Brook
Attendance: 1871 (281 away)