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Late Stacey winner earns u21s semi-final spot

3 February 2015

119th-minute goal seals victory

A 119th-minute winner from Jack Stacey fired Reading into the semi-finals of the U21s Premier League Cup as they overcame Huddersfield in a tight game at the John Smith’s Stadium.

With the clash looking likely to head to spot kicks, the winger cut inside from the left of the penalty area and curled a low strike beyond Terriers goalkeeper Lloyd Allison.

The solitary goal was a just reward for Martin Kuhl’s men, who had denied their hosts any attempts on goal, and the Royals now head into the last four of the tournament they won last season.

In terms of team news, Mikkell Andersen started in goal - just as he did for the first-team’s FA Cup tie at the beginning of January.

The stopper was protected by a back four of Niall Keown, Jake Cooper, Pierce Sweeney and Jure Travner, with recently fit again midfield duo Jem Karacan and Hope Akpan ahead of them, along with skipper Aaron Kuhl.

Matchwinner Stacey hogged the right-hand side and Ryan Edwards did likewise on the left.  Scottish youth international Harry Cardwell led the forward line.

Huddersfield, who were watched by their manager Chris Powell and assistant Alex Dyer from the stands, included first-teamers Anthony Gerrard and Duane Holmes in their starting XI.

In a cagey first half, right-back Keown provided the Royals’ best goalscoring opportunity when he flashed a low ball across the face of goal.

At the other end, a 35th-minute corner saw centre-half Joe Wright head well wide at the near post.

Tariqe Fosu replaced Jem Karacan at half time – the latter getting another 45 minutes under his belt as he steps up his recovery from a long-term knee injury – as the Royals adjudged their system slightly.

Fosu went to the left wing, allowing Ryan Edwards to play more centrally, and a number of forays forward from the former almost unlocked the door for the probing visitors.

Gerrard was proving a vocal presence at the back for Huddersfield, using his experience to talk Town’s back four through the second half untroubled, while the Royals’ defensive unit was similarly affective at the other end.

When referee Anthony Tankard blew his whistle for full-time the two sides could not be separated, and it was the same story 15 minutes later.

Sammi Fridjonsson injected some fresh legs into the Royals for the second period of extra time, as the visitors started to look like the more likely winners.

Travner saw a shot blocked on the edge of the box and fellow substitute Andrija Novakovich, who replaced Harry Cardwell on 79 minutes, came close to directing a low header into the net.

Fridjonsson then found Stacey with a little over a minute to play and, having switched to the left, he chopped inside of tiring full-back Joe Wilkinson and curled the ball into the corner.

The entire Royals’ XI, as well as all of the visiting bench celebrated the dramatic winner and Fosu could have added to the celebrations in stoppage time of extra time but he saw a fierce drive blocked from 18 yards.

The Terriers launched one final ball into the Royals penalty area but the back five again stood firm to guarantee the defending champions their spot in the semi finals.

Huddersfield: Allison, Wilkinson, Boyle ©, Gerrard, Wright, Tronstad, Billing, Booty, Holmes, Pyke.

Reading: Andersen, Keown, Travner, Sweeney, Cooper, Kuhl ©, Akpan, Karacan (Fosu), Stacey, Edwards (Fridjonsson), Cardwell (Novakovich)
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