Reading crashed out of the FA Cup in the third-round after defeat at Luton Town as George Moncur scored the only goal of the tie.
Moncur opened the scoring in the 30th minute with a caressed volley. The young Royals side applied the pressure in the second half but couldn’t find an equaliser as they exited the cup.
Managing in his first-ever FA Cup tie, Veljko Paunovic made plenty of changes after Reading’s win at Huddersfield Town last weekend to start the New Year with a victory.
There was a youthful look to the Royals squad, with 13 academy graduates named and just two players over the age of 23 in the team.
The Hatters started the stronger as they tested the young Royals side by firing some early crosses into the box, which were dealt with comfortably.
Ryan Tunnicliffe had the first sight at goal for the hosts when he met a cross but scuffed his connection as he failed to pick out the top left corner.
Luton continued their siege on the Reading goal as goalkeeper Luke Southwood did well to push the ball away from the back post as Danny Hylton tried to connect from a looping header.
Reading began to grow into the contest and had a few attacks, firstly when Alfa Semedo sent a good ball into the channel for Jayden Onen to chase, but as he tried to charge into the box he had his heels clipped and won a free-kick.
However, Reading couldn’t capitalise from a good position as Michael Olise’s set piece was easily cleared.
At the other end, Tom McIntyre made a vital block as he threw his body in the way of George Moncur’s goal bound shot.
But Moncur pounced on his next opportuntiy as he gave Luton a desrved lead after half an hour.
He raced onto a looping cross to the back post and met the ball with a side foot volley which he expertly stroked into the bottom corner past Southwood to break the deadlock.
Reading’s first shot came from Sone Aluko who worked some space for a shot before dragging a shot just wide of he target from just outside the box.
Olise then had an effort when he spun in the box and hit a snap shot which went well wide of the target as the visitors searched for a leveller before the break.
Southwood came to the rescue to prevent Reading goijg further behind early in the second half as he smothered the ball from Hylton who looked destined to prod the ball over the line from just a few yards out.
Semedo then tested the gloves of Simon Sluga who parried his long ranged effort away and Gabe Osho made a vital clearance as Sam Baldock looked to pounce on the loose ball from the rebound.
Reading’s best opening of the game came just after the hour mark when a cross from Tomas Esteves found its way to Aluko who had a clear sight of goal from just six yards out, but he spooned his effort onto the top of the crossbar as a huge chance was wasted.
The Royals continued to flourish in an improved second half showing as Esteves breezed past a Luton defender and hit a fierce low shot that was parried away by Sluga low to his right.
Sluga was again called into action as Olise tried his luck from 25 yards and won a corner after the keeper turned his low drive behind.
The pressure continued as Esteves turned with a brilliant piece of skill to get Reading going in attack, and Baldock charged forward and stung the hands of Sluga who parried his shot away, and then was forced into another smart stop on the rebound to deny Onen.
More academy prospects were given a chance when Dejan Tetek, Conor Lawless and Mamadi Camara replaced Aluko, Baldock and Semedo.
Reading should have levelled the game to force it into extra-time in the 92nd minute when Melvin-Lambert found himself through on goal but struck the crossbar, before Onen fired over on the follow up.
But despite their second-half efforts, an equaliser proved allusive as Reading exited the FA Cup in the third-round.
Reading return to Championship action next weekend when they host Brentford, who are one place and one point above the Royals, at the Madejski Stadium.
Luton: Sluga, Potts, Tunnicliffe, Hylton, Lee, Moncur, Galloway, Bree, Nombe, Morrell, Osho
Subs: Cornick, Berry, Lockyer, Rea, Mpanzu, Clark, Isted, Norrington-Davies, LuaLua
Reading: Southwood, Esteves, Bristow, McIntyre, Dorsett, Pendlebury, Onen, Semedo, Olise, Aluko, Baldock
Subs: Boyce-Clarke, Samuels, Holmes, Tetek, Camara, Lawless, Melvin-Lambert
Goals: Moncur 30′