HARVEY KNIBBS’ hat-trick ensured that Reading maintained their winning ways in the EFL Trophy as they brushed aside League Two Swindon Town.
In the first meeting between the two rivals for more than two decades, Knibbs made it a memorable night as he scored a treble before late goals from Paul Mukairu and Harlee Dean added more gloss to the scoreline.
Following the last gasp defeat at Leyton Orient, Ruben Selles made 10 changes to his team to try and regalvanise his squad for EFL Trophy action.
The two rivals met in competitive action for the first time since 2001 which saw Tom Holmes and Nesta Guinness-Walker handed starts having been omitted from matchday squads to several weeks prior to the weekend.
An injury in the warm-up to Coniah Boyce-Clarke saw him replaced by David Button, while there was a place up top for 20-year-old forward Jayden Wareham to try and impress.
The Royals’ last venture in the EFL Trophy saw them smash nine past Exeter City in what was a club record win.
With just 10 seconds on the clock, Reading had their first sight of goal when Paul Mukairu raced onto Wareham’s flick on and poked the ball wide after breaking into the box.
Wareham had a lively opening to the game and kept the Swindon defence on their toes as he spun into the box before slashing a shot off target.
He then had two acrobatic efforts, the first of which he couldn’t connect with before the second landed harmlessly wide.
Caylan Vickers’ craft and quick feet ignited a forward move to slice Swindon open as he found Andy Yiadom’s run before the skipper’s shot was stopped by the feet of Lewis Ward.
Having dominated proceedings, Reading broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when the visitors failed to clear their lines from Guinness-Walker’s cross which landed for Harvey Knibbs who found the net.
Having struggled to break out of their own half, the Robins had their first effort at goal after half an hour when Tyrese Shade’s wild effort flew high and wide.
Reading tried to extend their lead before the break as a swift move saw Yiadom cut in from the right wing and hit a shot with his left that looked destined for the left hand top corner, but landed just wide after taking a slight deflection.
The Royals did press home their dominance before the break as Knibbs added a second of the evening on the stroke of half-time.
He beat his runner at the front post to connect with Guinness-Walker’s cross and adjusted superbly to nod into the top corner.
It didn’t long after the restart for Knibbs to complete his hat-trick. After Mukairu was felled in the box, Knibbs stepped up to the spot and planted the ball into the bottom right corner.
A first Reading change of the night saw Femi Azeez replace hat-trick hero Knibbs.
After a quiet spell in the game, Holmes limped off injured and had to be replaced by Harlee Dean.
With the game already sealed, there was little in the way of goalmouth action in the final 25 minutes of the match as Reading went into cruise control.
A final trio of changes saw goalkeeper James Norcott come on for his debut, while Lewis Wing and Michael Stickland come on for Micahel Craig and Clinton Mola.
Reading added a fourth goal in stoppage time as Vickers went close with a free-kick and Mukairu was there on the follow up to convert.
The Royals weren’t done yet as Dean headed in from close range to make it five.
Following the international break, Reading are back in action away at Charlton Athletic on Saturday, October 21.
Reading: Boyce-Clarke, Mola, Holmes, Yiadom, Guinness-Walker, Craig, Rushesha, Knibbs, Mukairu, Vickers, Wareham
Subs: Button, Dean, Stickland, Carson, Wing, Azeez, Ehibhatiomhan
Swindon Town: Ward, McEachran, Genesini, Uwakwe, Kinsella, Dworzak, Shade, Minturn, Obodo, Adams, Hart
Subs: Fox, Keyes, Hubbard, Gray, Evans, Alston, Hutt
Goals: Knibbs 19’, 45+2’, 49’, Mukairu 90+4′, Dean 90+6′