Reading are through to third round of the Capital One Cup after an enthralling clash with Peterborough United at the Madejski Stadium.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, Chris Gunter and an own goal from Nathaniel Knight-Percival proved the difference for the Premier League outfit, who were behind twice to goals from Paul Taylor and Lee Tomlin for Posh.
Brian McDermott showed he was up for the cup with a strong side to face the Championship strugglers, naming the same team that started in the 4-2 Premier League defeat to Chelsea.
Peterborough didn’t have the luxury of a weekend off though, and manager Darren Ferguson made some changes with Danny Swanson and Nathaniel Knight-Percival the notable irregulars. Captain Gabriel Zakuani had been rested for the tie.
The Posh started well enough though, keeping possession well without creating chances. However, the first clear cut opportunity fell to Pogrebnyak, but the Russian fired wide from 12 yards after some great work from McCleary.
Peterborough took the lead moments later though, when a long punt up field wasn’t properly cleared by the hosts. Taylor fired from distance, managing to beat Adam Federici when the keeper should have done better.
They weren’t ahead for long however, with the Royals hitting back just four minutes later. Pogrebnyak battled hard to win a cross from Chris Gunter, and managed to find the net with an unintentional chip over Bobby Olejnik and the attempted covering defender.
No sooner were they level, than the visitors went back in-front, and again it was Federici at fault as the Australian failed to deal with captain-on-the-night Lee Tomlin’s shot from a tight angle. Both efforts will be of concern to manager McDermott.
It was another short lived advantage though, with Gunter finding plenty of space to play with down the right flank, curling the ball past Olejnik after young centre back Nathaniel Knight-Percival let the ball fly past his head.
Five minutes later and Russian striker Pogrebnyak was at it again, although his low effort struck the base of the post on 24 minutes on this occasion after good work from the Royals.
McCleary was causing young Posh full-back Kgosi Nthle plenty of problems down the right flank, and he beat the South African moments later before having his goal-bound effort blocked by Knight-Percival.
A couple of dangerous Ian Harte corners followed, before Ferguson made an early tactical chance by taking off defender Shaun Brisley and replacing him with another youngster – Joe Newell.
Posh had a great chance to take the lead again on 33 minutes, but transfer listed George Boyd could only head straight at Federici after good work going forward by Mark Little. The stopper held on this time around.
Mikele Leigertwood’s shot from long range was blocked minutes later, but defender Knight-Percival could only divert the ball into his own net five minutes after that as Danny Guthrie’s cross ended up in the back of the net. The youngster was under pressure from McCleary, who could argue he got the last touch.
That’s the way it stayed until the interval, and the game appeared to be taking a breather in the opening exchanges of the second half as both sides looked to keep hold of the ball.
Leigertwood had the first meaningful strike in anger six minutes in, but his effort from distance flew wide of Olejnik’s left hand post.
A free-kick from Northern Ireland international Grant McCann caused problems from the Peterborough right flank this time, but after his follow-up corner was cleared, it was Reading who nearly sprung a counter attack through McCleary.
It came to nothing, and the next meaningful peace of action came from a rash Swanson tackle on Pogrebnyak. The forward rightly went into the book of referee Andy D’Urso.
McDermott instantly reacted with a substitution, taking off McCleary – the best player on the pitch up to that point – and replacing him with Noel Hunt.
Grant McCann’s free-kick on 72 minutes was the next best effort of the match, but his free-kick was high and wide of Federici’s goal as Posh chased an equaliser. That miss signalled another change for the hosts, who introduced Jay Tabb for the returning Jem Karacen.
Peterborough’s forward thinking trio of Taylor, Boyd and Tomlin were all looking good, and they kept the pressure on as a Little run down the right led to another corner. McCann’s delivery was only half cleared on 75 minutes, but Tomlin’s effort from the angle was wide of the target.
The visitors were starting to lose momentum in the final ten minutes, and Reading swung in a couple of crosses that were easily collected by Olejnik.
Striker Emile Sinclair was introduced to try and bring Posh to life in the closing stages, and it almost worked immediately as Newell found himself at the far post from a corner. He could only fire over under strong pressure on 85 minutes.
Hunt then had his chance to wrap up the game after a fine run into the Peterborough box, but Olejnik managed to turn the ball onto the post with his feet and keep the game alive as the Royals pressed.
A couple of late corners gave Peterborough hope, but in the end Reading were able to hold on and get their name in the hat for the third round of the competition as the big boys now await.