Under-18s book a place in fourth roundRelive the game minute-by-minute on the match blog - click here!
Reading’s Under-18 squad secured a spot in the FA Youth Cup fourth round at the expense of Sheffield United, on an evening of high drama at Madejski Stadium.
Despite looking the likelier, the Royals trailed to a second-half goal from Blades forward Connor Hall – and his strike looked like it was going to be the decider, until Reading centre-half Gabriel Osho levelled in stoppage-time to take the game to an added 30 minutes.
From there, Reading pressed for the win – and when Sam Smith was bundled down by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, Josh Barrett put the Royals in front for the first time from the spot after the stopper had received his marching orders. Danny Loader, a second-half sub, put gloss on the scoreline with a neat finish in the final throes.
It was Royals captain Barrett that registered the first meaningful shot of the evening, as he ghosted past a couple of challenges in the midfielder, played a one-two, but ultimately curled his effort too close to the goalkeeper. Soon after he was denied again, breaking down the left-hand side and having a shot saved low with just the goalkeeper to beat.
The Blades weren’t troubling Luke Southwood with too much regularity – his first save came midway through the opening half, as Jordan Hallam struck on the volley from 25 yards, but it was fielded without trouble. Conor Davis and Ryan East both had efforts kept at bay for the Royals before the referee blew time on a goalless first half.
Reading midfielder Tyler Frost missed a golden chance to open the scoring soon after the restart as he dragged past the far post; instead, it was the visitors that broke the deadlock when Hall charged onto a ball in the box and nestled his strike low into the far corner from close range.
The lead served to galvanise the Blades – suddenly their defensive solidity was on show and the Royals were struggling to break down two banks of four. Even so, Barrett came close to levelling within five minutes as he curled goalwards from an audacious angle, only for the woodwork to come to the visitors’ rescue.
Midway through the second period, United captain Shea Gordon was also denied by the frame of the goal – he found a pocket of space before unleashing with power from 20 yards; the ball clipped the crossbar on its way behind.
Smith was a yard away from converting a low Barrett cross, and both Barrett and Icelandic centre-half Axel Andresson ballooned shots over the bar from range as it looked like an equaliser wasn’t forthcoming. Even when Smith got his head to a deep cross six yards from goal, the goalkeeper saved and held.
But resilience and a never-say-die attitude from Reading paid dividends in added time when Osho, up from centre-half, was on the spot to bundle in a right-flank corner to take the game into extra time.
Both goalkeepers had to make important saves in the first 15 minutes of extra time – Luke Southwood pulled off a fine stop from a long-range effort from the Blades, while Smith saw an effort on the turn palmed away by Ramsdale.
As the game looked to be heading to the drama of penalties, it was ultimately decided by just a single spot-kick – Barrett won a flick-on for Smith, who was floored recklessly by goalie Ramsdale as he tried to shoot. The goalkeeper received a straight red, and Barrett sent the Royals ahead from 12 yards, placing past a stand-in goalie Callum Semple in the United net.
Semple made a telling save from Barrett, who had been set up in a wide position inside the box; but at the end of two hours of battle, Loader was released down the right and finished with assured calmness to seal a 3-1 victory and secure a place in the fourth round against Fulham.
Full-time: Reading U18 3 Sheffield United U18 1
Reading U18 starting XI: Southwood, Akinwunmi, Richards, Bennett, Osho, Andresson, Frost, East, Smith, Barrett, Davis.
Subs: Tupper, Holmes, Loader, Coleman, Howe.
Goals: Osho (90+1), Barrett (113 pen), Loader (120).
Sheffield United U18 starting XI: Ramsdale, Charlesworth, Kelly, Gilmour, Cummings, Semple, Maw, Gordon, Hall, Hallam, Mallon.
Subs: Perryman, Adebowale, Ford, Smith, Litchfield.
Goal: Hall (51).