Reading u21s 1-0 Aston Villa U21sAn exquisite free-kick from Liam Kelly moved Reading’s U21s to within two points of promotion as they edged out Aston Villa at Madejski Stadium on Friday evening.
After some tight opening exchanges, the dynamic midfielder curled home from 25 yards to give the Royals lead the lead.
After the break, Andrija Novakovich, Harry Cardwell and Kelly all went close to extending the scoreline but 1-0 proved to be enough as the U21s secured their seventh successive victory
Martni Kuhl’s side travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers next and three points in the West Midlands would see the Royals book their place in U21s Premier League Division One.
Aston Villa made a bright start with Rory Hale aiming a tame shot straight at Dan Lincoln, and the goalkeeper had to be on his toe after six minutes to palm away a point-blank effort from Harry McKirdy.
Reading soon settled, though, and an audacious lob from Kelly two minutes later, from almost on the byline, had visiting stopper Brad Watkins sprawling backwards to tip it over the bar.
Centre-back Pierce Sweeney lashed an effort off target after Niall Keown had flicked on a long throw from Sammi Fridjonsson. And on 37 minutes Readin nudged ahead.
After Novakovich had been chopped down eight yards outside the box, Kelly stepped up and curled a beautiful free-kick beyond Watkins and into the net.
There was concern for Reading three minutes later as Lincoln collided with Andre Green following a brave clearing punch. After two minutes of treatment, the goalkeeper was able to continue.
Some fluid link up play between Fridjonnson and captain Aaron Kuhl found goalscorer Kelly in some space on the left-hand-side of the box. After taking a touch, he jinked inside a fired narrowly over.
The Royals came even closer to grabbing a second a minute later. Novakovich was found by the lively Nana Owusu and, after wriggling beyond a couple of challenges, his shot was deflected over.
The American striker again did well to weave beyond three Villa challenges shortly afterwards. Though the visiting defence eventually stifled the danger by blocking his effort at goal.
Watkins kept out substitute Harry Cardwell after he had been played in down the right by Novakovich and, at the other end, Sweeney got in a vital challenge to poke the ball away from Green inside the box.
Novakovich capitalised on a short backpass seven minutes from time but Watkins again got his side out of jail with a smart stop and as the fourth official indicated four minutes of stoppage time Villa began to apply some pressure.
A sustained, two-minute spell of possession had the Royals on the back foot and when a shot eventually came in, Lincoln got his body behind Green’s bobbling strike and held on.
Victory, Reading’s seventh in a row, moves the U21s back above Derby County and into second place of the Division Two table, and within an outside chance of catching leaders Middlesbrough.
Reading: Lincoln, Long, Griffin, Sweeney, Keown, Kuhl (c), Fridjonsson (Cardwell 58), Shaughnessy, Owusu, Kelly, Novakovich.
Subs: Ward, Hyam, Husin, Vastuk.
Aston Villa: Watkins, Leggett, Toner (C), Mason, Calder, Cowans, Hale, Green, Abdo, Sellars (Taylor 46), McKirdy (O’Hare 42).
Subs: Hill, Lyons-Foster.