Royals U21s win thrilling contest
Newcastle Utd U21s 2 (
Bigirimana 10, Armstrong 13)
Gozie Ugwu scored twice as Reading's under-21s deservedly beat Newcastle United 4-2 in an enthralling first Barclays Under 21 Premier League match of the season.
A smattering of Royals supporters witnessed an unbelievable opening 15 minutes as Ugwu gave the hosts the lead in style before the Magpies replied from the spot moments after.
Wearing the captain's armband, Shaun Cummings led a youthful Royals side out at Madejski Stadium for the under-21s' first match of the 2013/14 Barclays U21 Premier League season - with manager Nigel Adkins, director of football Nick Hammond and former boss Steve Coppell among the spectators.
In a lively start to the game with the Magpies, Pierce Sweeney had a firm header blocked by a Newcastle man, moments before Jordan Obita curled over the bar.
And after eight minutes, Reading took advantage of their early pressure – and in some style. Ugwu, bursting towards goal, let fire from at least 25 yards to find the top right corner of the net to open the scoring.
Though it was a truly superb effort, it was a goal and a lead that the Royals could only savour for two minutes. Referee C Powell awarded our visitors a somewhat harsh penalty after the ball cannoned off the arm of Jake Cooper, and England U20s international Gael Bigirimana converted in off the post.
Then Newcastle cruelly took the lead three minutes later. Frontman Adam Armstrong, just inside the Royals 18-yard box, struck at goal and although Henly got a touch on it - the ball found its way into the net.
But astonishingly, with just 15 minutes on the clock, Ugwu equalised. Dominic Samuel deftly headed on for the young striker, who coolly cut inside and finished with aplomb on his left foot.
Jake Taylor nearly got the fifth of the game when his strike from range was denied by Jak Alnwick, before Samuel and Obita were just wide of the mark before the interval.
It was Taylor who had the first serious attempt of the second half when he let fire with venom, before Samuel shot over from range and Toon striker Adam Campbell wasted a good chance for the visitors.
The Royals dominated throughout the second period, which saw Samuel go close with a header before D'Ath was denied after some great work down the right flank from Obita.
Ugwu, the shining star in a fantastic game, came so close to sealing his hat-trick midway through the half. First, he unselfishly squared the ball to Samuel - whose effort was inches wide before Gozie almost made it three in stunning fashion.
Seizing possession of the ball midway through Newcastle's half, the 20-year-old rocketed from almost 30-yards - and nearly scored a truly special goal.
Though Ugwu thoroughly deserved his hat-trick, he played his part in the third and fourth goals which thankfully sealed the win. The frontman was denied by Alnwick before substitute Craig Tanner got something on the ball to fall into the path of D'Ath - who slotted home, sparking fantastic celebrations as the Royals clinched the vital goal.
Sweeney headed wide from a corner as Reading looked to put the game to bed, but they were thankful for goalkeeper Jon Henly - who produced a smart save to deny United full-back Jamie Sterry.
And with just seconds left to play, the Royals snatched a fourth to seal the win. Ugwu and Tanner were involved in the build up, but it was Samuel who struck to make it four and complete a pleasing and entertaining night's work at Madejski Stadium.
We'll have match reaction from coach Martin Kuhl and youngsters Jake Cooper, Dom Samuel, Gozie Ugwu and Lawson D'Ath online soon.