Great achievement for the young RoyalsReading’s U14s came within five minutes of defending their Nike Cup title at Wembley Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Having progressed through the competition’s qualifying rounds at St George’s Park, they met Arsenal at the national stadium just two days after both clubs’ first teams had contested an FA Cup Semi-Final.
The tie was level at 0-0 after two tightly-fort, 30-minute periods, sending the clash to extra time.
As the Royals possessed a superior goal difference, a draw at the end of the 10 minutes of additional time would have seen them defend the trophy that they lifted last April.
An extra-time goal from Jack Buchanan was enough for Reading to beat Chelsea in the final last term but, this time around, the youngsters lost out as Alfie Matthews tapped home the winner for the Gunners.
The Royals probed for an equaliser in the final minutes but, despite a valiant effort, a late equaliser just eluded them.
Academy Manager Eamonn Dolan said: “Last year we were here and tremendously proud, having beaten Chelsea 1-0. This year, I'm even prouder of the boys.
“To come with a completely different group, except one player, and to come back to Wembley and be three minutes away from defending our trophy because of our better qualification probably makes me feel more proud.
“The boys were tremendous. Fair play to Arsenal, they've got a very good group of young players but so have we. Under Andries Jonker, they certainly seem to be doing well but this was a very proud day for me to be Academy Manager of Reading Football Club.”
Assistant Academy Manager Lee Herron added: “It's really important to stress what the boys have done to get to where they got to today. To reach back-to-back Nike Cup finals in unpresented.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and to get that close to winning it again; to take Arsenal to extra time and then just lose it with three or four minutes to go is obviously disappointed but the achievement of the players and the staff is first class.
“We could not have asked any more of them on a really hot day, a big occasion at Wembley and to do what they did was excellent. We're all really proud of them. Hopefully they can learn a lot from this and be better for it.”