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21:55 4th October 2016

Young Royals earn bonus point with spot-kick win

The Royals took two points from their Checkatrade Trophy trip to Fratton Park – one for a 2-2 draw against Portsmouth, and a bonus point from the ensuing penalty shoot-out.

Andrija Novakovich had the Royals ahead at the break, before Joseph Mendes hit a spot-kick after the interval. But a Curtis Main brace in quick succession earned the hosts a share.

However goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola made four penalty saves in the shoot-out, allowing Reading to take an extra point when Tyler Frost converted the all-important kick when it went to sudden death.

Like in the first group fixture against Bristol Rovers, Martin Kuhl named another young starting XI – seven of which came through the Royals’ Academy. Goalkeeper Jaakkola, signed in the summer, wore the captain’s armband.

The Royals wasted little time in opening the scoring – and it was a goal that showed plenty of composure from the forwards. Liam Kelly raked a ball over the top for Joseph Mendes to run onto – he went wide to go around the goalkeeper, but kept a cool head on the left byline to cut inside and pick out teammate Novakovich, who slotted in calmly.

Pompey were offering threats of their own – striker Michael Smith went wide twice either side of the opening goal, with a header and a right-footed strike respectively.

Reading were dealt an early blow though – 17-year-old defender Tom McIntyre had to withdraw with an injury after colliding with a Portsmouth forward, meaning that Shane Griffin filled in at full-back and Tyler Blackett dropped in at centre-half.

Goalkeeper Jaakkola was forced into his first meaningful save midway through the first period; a corner from the right came to Milan Lalkovic, who fired from the edge of the area… the Finn saw it late through a crowd of bodies but saved with an outstretched leg.

Dominic Samuel came close to doubling the lead as the Royals countered quickly – he cut in off his position on the left of the front three and hammered goalwards, only for goalie Liam O’Brien to parry and collect at the second attempt. Soon after, Ben Close struck with venom for the hosts but skewed his shot off target.

The hosts also had an enforced change through injury before the interval – Adam Buxton needed to be replaced with a knock, allowing Gareth Evans to take his place.

And it was the Pompey sub who forced Jaakkola into the first meaningful save of the second half as he got a deft near-post touch to a corner, but the stopper held well.

Moments later, at the other end, Reading doubled the lead through Mendes. His good work on the right won a corner… Kelly whipped in from the flag and the ref pointed to the spot after spotting an infringement. Mendes stepped up and hammered high into the top corner from 12 yards.

But the lead was cut back to a single goal before the hour-mark. A low, tested cross from the right-hand side was met at the near post by Main, who slid in and converted the chance.

And then, less than 10 minutes later, Main had Pompey level – the forward pulled the trigger from the edge of the area and found the bottom corner for the equaliser.

Novakovich could have had his second of the evening with some delightful footwork in the Pompey box – he controlled and turned as he ran onto Kelly’s forward ball, but his effort deflected kindly into the hand of goalkeeper O’Brien.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Pompey came close to completing a turnaround when Smith was a whisker away from touching in Kal Naismith’s cross from the left. Soon after, Tyler Frost was a fraction too heavy with his ball for sub Omar Richards.

The ever-willing Mendes was cleanly tackled by Jack Whatmough as strike-partner Samuel tried an early release through the middle. And soon after Samuel struck a left-footed effort from the edge of the box, but it lacked the power to trouble the goalkeeper.

Frost had a chance to win it as the game entered the three added minutes, but he couldn’t quite make a firm enough contact with his volley. Richards had improvised superbly on the left flank before delivering a deep cross for the teenager.

But he did score a decisive penalty in the ensuing shoot-out, as Reading took a bonus point – the goalkeepers were keeping the sudden death kicks going, until the 17-year-old converted emphatically.

Full-time: Portsmouth 2-2 Reading
Reading win 4-3 on penalties

Portsmouth: O’Brien, Clarke, Smith, Lalkovic, Main (Naismith 69), Whatmough, Buxton (Evans 43), Bennett, Linganzi, Close (May 73), Haunstrup.
Unused subs: Hall, Davies, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Goals: Main (57, 64).

Reading: Jaakkola, Watson, Blackett, Gravenberch, McIntyre (Griffin 18), Kelly, Rinomhota, Frost, Novakovich (Richards 78), Samuel, Mendes.
Unused subs: Moore, Vancooten, East, Bennett, Cardwell.
Goals: Novakovich (7), Mendes (52 pen).

Smith scored (1-0)
Mendes scored (1-1)
Naismith scored (2-1)
Blackett scored (2-2)
Bennett saved (2-2)
Kelly scored (2-3)
Lalkovic saved (2-3)
Samuel saved (2-3)
Evans scored (3-3)
Griffin saved (3-3)
May saved (3-3)
Watson saved (3-3)
Whatmough saved (3-3)
Frost scored (3-4)