National League outfit Eastleigh face troubled League One side Reading at the Silverlake Stadium as they look to cause an upset and get into the third round of the FA Cup for the third time in their history.
Eastleigh’s best performance in the competition came when they held Bolton Wanderers to a 1-1 draw at home back in 2015/16 before Wanderers edged past the National League side 3-2 with Darren Pratley netting the winner.
Heading into this clash, the Spitfires had narrowly beaten National League South outfit Dover Athletic courtesy of a Charlie Carter goal on the hour mark in the fourth qualifying round.
In the first-round proper, Eastleigh thumped fellow National League side Boreham Wood 5-1 with goals from Nigel Atangana, Chris Maguire, and Ludwig Francillettee both getting braces to emphatically strut into the second round.
Eastleigh currently sit 11th in the National League and head into the match this weekend with three wins in their last five games. However, the last time out they lost 3-2 in an entertaining clash against league leaders Chesterfield. Having found themselves 3-0 down, Paul McCallum and Scott Quigley responded to give the leaders a fright towards the end.
Reading will be going into this match confident after thrashing Carlisle United 5-1 at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Tuesday evening. A Sam Lavelle own goal followed by a brace from Harvey Knibbs and a goal-a-piece from Lewis Wing and Femi Azeez completed the rout. They’ve won three games in a row in all competitions and have lost one in their last five.
The Royals faced League Two MK Dons in the first round of the competition and managed a 3-2 win with goals from Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Knibbs, and Wing consolidating their place.
Reading’s best performance in the FA Cup came way back in 1926-27, when they lost to eventual winners Cardiff City at Molineux in Wolverhampton in the semi-final. The game ended 1-0 in what was a 10-game run for the Royals. Since then they’ve most recently reached the semi-finals in 2014-15, where they lost 2-1 to Arsenal after extra time.
It’s been a turbulent season for the former Championship side, who’ve faced points deductions this season which sees them sit 23rd in the table and five points adrift of safety. Without the points deductions they’d have been sitting just outside the relegation zone, so the FA Cup provides a welcome break from league action for a club in turmoil.
In the Carabao Cup, the Royals pulled off one of the shocks of the round. The depleted side dismantled Millwall 4-0 at the Den with two goals from Ehibatiomanhan, Charlie Savage, and Mamadi Camara completing the scoring. Reading also took a surprise lead against Championship highflyers Ipswich Town but ultimately lost on penalties after a 2-2 to the Suffolk side.
Historically, the two sides have only faced each other once, with Eastleigh coming out on top in a friendly in 2018. Otherwise, this is the first time they’ll have to face one another in a competitive fixture, with the former surely confident about causing an upset whilst Reading would like to put their troubled league campaign to one side and progress deeper into the competition. In 2021-22, Reading lost at home to Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 in the third round, so that’ll give Non-League Eastleigh encouragement going into this one.