Royals U18s beat Stoke 3-2Stoke City U18s 2 (Richards 12, Edwards 77)
Reading U18s 3 (Cardwell pen 7, 70, Vastsuk 14)
Reading’s under-18s beat Stoke City 3-2 away from home to secure an impressive third-placed finish in the Barclays U18s Premier League South Group.
A strong run of end-of-season form has helped the Royals climb above FA Youth Cup finalists Fulham and Chelsea to a secure a top-three finish – just five points behind second-placed West Ham who go into the national Play-Offs with Tottenham, Man City and Everton.
It means that David Dodds’ side finish the season, which included a brave run to the Youth Cup semi-finals, on a high – especially given the fact that our younger, less experienced Academy scholars were used in the last handful of league fixtures.
Harry Cardwell scored twice, one from the penalty spot, while Estonian forward Bogdan Vastsuk also netted for the Royals.
Reading started last Saturday’s game in Staffordshire brightly, and Cardwell had the game’s first opportunity as he diverted a header wide before being brought down by goalkeeper Dominic Kurasik in the box, with the referee pointing to the spot.
The former Hull striker dusted himself down and fired into the bottom right-hand corner to give the Royals the lead.
Dodds’ men almost doubled their lead moments later when Vastsuk headed over, before the Potters hit back with their first attack as Derice Richards coolly finished Yusuf Coban’s through ball.
But just two minutes later, and Reading re-established their advantage. Vastsuk scored with an impressive effort from just inside the area after a quick breakaway.
Noor Husin then went close to grabbing a third for the Royals when his close-range free header flew over before Cardwell’s volley untroubled the Stoke stopper before half time.
The hosts were on top after the break and created numerous chances, one of which resulted in a superb point-blank save by Reading ‘keeper Alex Gogic.
But Reading soon found their groove in the second half. Sammi Fridjonsson was denied by Kurasik before Cardwell struck his second of the game with an effort from the edge of the area which flew into the bottom corner for 3-1.
However, the Royals were set for a nervy finish as Liam Edwards scored a sublime volley to reduce Stoke’s deficit to just one goal.
Richards and Tomi Adeloye both hit the woodwork late on, but Dodds’ youngsters held on for an excellent victory against the Potters, securing a third-placed finish in the group after another season to remember for the Academy.
Reading: Gogic; Watson (Collins 70), McLennan, Dickie, Hyam (C), Shaughnessy, Husin (Shaughnessy 70), Owusu, Lawal; Cardwell, Vastsuk.
Subs not used: Ethelston, Williams, Waritay.
Stoke: Kurasik, Cook, Strong, Roberts, Sanders, Coulson, Coban, Makrillos, Adeloye, Richards, Monlouis.
Subs: Dyche, Edwards, Banks, Renee-Pringle, Weston-Hayles.