Reading’s Under-18s are once again quarter-finalists in the FA Youth Cup, after defeating Colchester United 4-1 in the fifth round at Weston Homes Community Stadium!
The result means that we’ll be hosting our Arsenal counterparts – seven-time winners of the cup – in Berkshire in the last eight of this year’s competition.
Reading needed to do it the hard way… after chances went begging, it was the U’s who netted first as Callum Anderson finished a quick counter with aplomb.
But Danny Loader hit two fine finishes before the break to ensure that the Royals got their noses in front.
Jack Nolan gave the Royals a cushion, and then Loader sealed his hat-trick a minute later as the Royals romped to the next stage!
The Royals came steaming out of the blocks and had several chances to go ahead in a lively start to the game. With barely five minutes on the clock, Loader appeared to have beaten the goalkeeper to a deflected cross, but penalty claims were waved away.
Ethan Coleman picked the ball up on the left and switched for the onrushing Jordan Holsgrove on the other side… the angle was a little too narrow and he could only find the side netting.
Soon after, Samuel Faniyan was denied another goal in this year’s cup run – jinking in down the right flank, his firm effort needed a fingertip save by Harry Seaden. The U’s were clinging on.
But they had threats of their own. Noah Chilvers’ set-piece delivery was only half cleared, and Adam Desbois had to turn Rob Howard’s half-volley around the post on the stretch.
Loader was released down the left by Jack Nolan and made his way deep into Colchester territory – a looping cross had Seaden stumped, but crashed away off the top of the bar.
And, as if often the way in football, the Royals were made to pay for missed chances as George Keys laid off for Anderson to place perfectly into the top corner… no chance for Desbois.
Holsgrove’s set pieces were looking like a potential avenue to get back into the game – a deep delivery was almost poked home by Faniyan, and an inswinging corner from the right needed clawing away by the goalkeeper.
But the equalising goal came in open play. 15-year-old Imari Samuels hung up a cross towards the back a stick which was taken out of the air by Loader – he pirouetted into space and fired hard and low, beating the goalkeeper at the near post.
A second for Reading almost followed straight away – some scintillating football resulted in Loader setting Joe Wilson away to the byline, and his venomous cross was tipped by Seaden, and just wrong-footed Faniyan as he steamed onto the header.
But the Royals’ second did come before the break, and it was Loader again on the scoresheet. It was simple stuff – captain Akinwale Odimayo’s clearance turned into a good ball forward for the forward, who held off Billy Cracknell before firing in his second of the night.
The U’s weren’t far from levelling things up soon after the restart as Dean Ager cut inside and drilled from outside the area – it looked destined for the net, but for a fingertip stop at full stretch by Desbois.
And at the other end, Holsgrove beat the goalkeeper but not the woodwork. It was he who won the free-kick – drawing a foul in the act of shooting – and his dipping effort crashed against the woodwork and safely clear.
Faniyan, supporting the attack from midfield, was twice denied – the first as he drove alone from the half-way line, and then from close range in a crowded area. Nolan was unlucky to be denied as he fired from range and forced a top stop from Seaden.
But two goals in quick succession killed the tie and settled any nerves… first Nolan calmly placed into the bottom corner as the ball was squared to him outside the box, and then Loader rounded off a fine team move as Wilson squared neatly to allow him to tap in.
The result could have been even more emphatic as Wilson and Coleman were each denied by Seaden, who was determined not to give any further goals away.
And now Arsenal await in the quarter-final!
Full-time: Colchester United U18 1-4 Reading U18
Colchester United U18: Seaden, Howard, Keys (Kazeem 69), Cornish (Hassanally 69), Cracknell, Kensdale, Ager, Chilvers, Jones, Anderson (Mudd 77), Sims.
Unused subs: Tricker, Coulter.
Reading U18: Desbois, Wilson, Akinwale, Holmes, Samuels, Buchanan, Faniyan (Nevers 82), Coleman, Loader (Hanson 88), Holsgrove, Nolan (Simmo 82).
Unused subs: Hillson, Stevens.