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Reading cruised through to the Quarter Finals of the U21 Premier League Cup on Friday afternoon with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Watford at Hogwood Park.
A Craig Tanner hat-trick added to a Gozie Ugwu brace and a strike from Tariqe Fosu to grant the Royals a tie away with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the last eight of the tournament.
Wind and rain battered the training ground, but after a spate of recent postponements the game went ahead as planned – with the pitch in brilliant condition considering the circumstances.
The Hornets looked bright early on, as Mathias Ranegie stabbed wide five minutes in – but the hosts soon took control, with both Liam Kelly and Jack Stacey coming close to opening the scoring.
It was Tanner who did find the net first – and in some style. The technically astute number ten controlled Pierce Sweeney’s crossfield pass with his chest, before dancing inside, exchanging a one two with Gozie Ugwu and slamming an unstoppable 25 yard effort past Gary Woods in the Watford goal.
The visitors managed to hold out until half time, but after the break Martin Kuhl’s side stepped up a gear – and Reading doubled their lead.
Tanner the creator this time – squaring from the right for Academy winger Tariqe Fosu to crash home from close range.
Next up it was Gozie Ugwu’s turn to show his unselfish side, as the industrious frontman picked out Tanner at the far post – who made no mistake to seal his brace.
To their credit Watford rallied; Barnum-Bobb's cross from the right deflected in off a crowd of bodies, but the Royals weren’t to be deterred – and restored their three goal cushion soon afterwards, all be it in fortunate circumstances.
Tanner’s free-kick from 25 yards was reasonably well struck and on target – but Hornets stopper Gary Woods will have been disappointed to see it slip from his grasp in damp conditions before trickling over the line for the Reading man’s hat-trick.
That’s now seven goals in four games for the 19-year-old, who has come back fantastically well after missing a large chunk of the current campaign through injury.
There was still time for the home side to show their ruthless streak – and Ugwu to deservedly work his way onto the score sheet.
The frontman finished well from just inside the area to make it five, before rounding off the scoring and sealing his brace with a header from close range after good work by Jack Stacey.
6-1 it finished – with exact details on the time and location of the quarter final clash with Wolves to follow.
Reading: Moore, Long, Griffin, Kelly, Sweeney, Keown, Stacey, Kuhl (Capt), Fosu (Fridjonsson 89), Ugwu, Tanner
Subs: Lincoln, Hyam, Shaugnessy, Murombedzi