Academy coach praises all-round showing from U18sUnder-18 head coach David Dodds was delighted with the show of character that the Academy lads showed in Tuesday evening’s dramatic FA Youth Cup win against Sheffield United.
The Royals trailed until stoppage-time, but defender Gabriel Osho forced a corner over the line to tie up the scores and take the game to an additional 30 minutes – whereupon captain Josh Barrett gave Reading the lead from the penalty spot and Danny Loader added sheen to the scoreline in the final minute.
That show of resilience was especially pleasing, and he recalled a similar situation two years ago when Academy Manager Eamonn Dolan had inspired the youngsters to a come-back win against Liverpool.
“If you could know the outcome, you’d choose that one because it really tested the character,” said Dodds. “You wouldn’t want it as a coach – I’ve got a few more grey hairs!
“The game-plan was to move them around and run the aggression and their knocking balls into us out of them; I thought in the first half we did that, and in the second half they came out a lot stronger and played balls into our third and kept us in there. It was an unfortunate goal that we gave them, but it made the experience all the more valuable.
“We had a few chances after where we could have scored, but we kept going – and that was the brilliant thing. We kept going and got one at the end. In extra-time, it was nip and tuck in the first period.
“Two years ago we played Liverpool here, Eamonn did one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard when we were 4-2 down with 15 minutes to go. I reminded them that Eamonn had sent us a good-luck text – I said, wouldn’t it be nice if we could win this one so he can be at the next round?
“I think the lads all did a shift – it was unfortunate for them at the end, but these things happen. We were through on goal with the goalkeeper to beat, and he brings the lad down.
“I’m delighted with the result – the performance was very good, and it would have been excellent if we had put our chances away. Sometimes it is a little bit of fate – you start thinking that it’s a great way to win it, and is it our year to have a really good run?
“Everybody could have given up, but that’s not the Reading way. Nick Hammond, the Director of Football, came in and said that it was a brilliant Reading-type performance. Really good quality passing, we battled when we needed to, when they pressed in aggressively in the second half we played from the half-way line. We did a real mix of things, which is a good test for the lads.
“We never want to just bang it forward, but sometimes you’ve got to knock it into good areas and play football from there, which I thought we did. I thought we created several really good chances, but it was good to see that one go in at the end.”
As well as keeping the dream of a cup run alive for another year, another advantage of progression to the next stage is that they have another chance to gain valuable experience in the competition.
Played in first-team stadia, the FA Youth Cup holds a great deal of prestige for the players and Dodds feels that it will stand them in better stead as they continue their progression towards the professional game.
“I personally believe that this is the closest thing we can offer to making their first-team debut, so in that respect it’s great,” he continued. “Some of the lads that didn’t get on today might get on in the next game – who knows.
“It’s a great experience and you learn a lot about the lads. Tonight I think we learnt that they can play, and they can also show character when required.”