DANNY Loader believes he is slowly getting to grips with first-team football after making his Championship debut for Reading FC.

The 18-year-old striker was Paul Clement’s first substitution at Wigan Athletic on Saturday when he replaced Sone Aluko midway through the second half.

The former Leighton Park schoolboy did not look out of place and even had a chance to snatch victory when his shot deflected over towards the end of the 0-0 stalemate.

Loader’s rapid rise from prolific scorer in the Under 23s to first-team striker is huge boost for the club’s Academy.

The Reading-born forward waited patiently for his opportunity, having made his only other first-team appearance 15 months earlier in a 3-1 EFL Cup win against Millwall.

And Loader, who scored for England Under 19s recently, looked back on his league debut at the weekend with pride.

"It was a really amazing feeling,” he beamed. “It's been quite a long time since I played for the first team and it's a really big milestone for me, so I'm thankful for my family and friends.

"I've been getting more used to first-team football, the intensity and the demands of it.

"I think I've come on a lot as a player, both physically and technically.

"The manager told me to keep doing well with the Under 23s and I've dipped in and out of first-team training too."

Loader’s superb form for club and country this season did not go unnoticed by Clement and he is thought to have attracted attention from several Bundesliga clubs.

With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Sam Baldock both sidelined with injury last weekend, the talented youngster finally got his chance.

Loader is likely to keep his place in the squad for tomorrow’s night’s televised clash against Leeds United at Elland Road (7.45pm ko).

"It'll be good to get in the squad and get more minutes, hopefully score some goals and contribute to the team,” he added.

"I'll be keeping my head down, keep training well, keep playing well, and hopefully get more minutes."

Loader’s goal tally has already reached double figures for club and country this season, and his exploits with England helped them finish second in their European Under 19 Championship qualifying group.

And the young forward enjoyed his time away with the Three Lions recently.

"It was really good, we came second in our qualifying group and I got a goal,” stated Loader, who has three goals in seven appearances for England U19s. “My team-mates helped again with the adjustment to senior football, the physical demands and being confident on the ball."

Reading’s squad on Saturday contained more homegrown players as Academy graduates Liam Kelly and Andy Rinomhota both made the starting line-up at the DW Stadium.

Conor Lawless, who penned his first professional contract in September, also travelled with the first team, though the 17-year-old midfielder did not make the final matchday squad.

Reading did not travel home after the Wigan game and will stay in the north ahead of the clash at Leeds United.