Youngsters overcome Norwich at Madejski StadiumGoals either side of half-time by Andrija Novakovich and Sammi Fridjonsson got the Royals a 2-0 win and three points against visiting Norwich City, as the sides clashed at Madejski Stadium in the Under-21 Premier League.
It was the first league fixture for over a month for the youngsters, who claimed a 3-3 draw in the dying embers of their previous match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The match also saw the return to action for young duo Dominic Samuel and Jack Stacey, each of whom played just over an hour on their return to competitive action after recent injuries.
Both sides enjoyed spells of possession in the early forays – and a display of pace and power from Rowan Liburd brought the first yellow card of the game in the first five minutes as Afolabi Coker had to hack down the forward as he broke into space across the half-way line.
Then Tariqe Fosu smartly won a free-kick as he retrieved Jack Stacey’s deep delivery – Conor Shaughnessy came close with a training-ground routine, only for Ben Killip to make a save.
However before long the deadlock was broken by Andrija Novakovich – the American forward was slipped in by Dominic Samuel, gave the goalkeeper the eyes, and slotted inside the near post.
Canaries youngster Todd Cantwell might have levelled when he cut in off the left as Norwich won the ball high upfield; however his connection was all wrong and danger was averted.
Then visiting right-back Reece Hall-Johnson forced Stacey into some smart defending at the back post, as a deep delivery needed a vital touch to take it away from the arriving yellow and green shirts.
Dominic Samuel, returning from injury, could have doubled the lead when the game ticked over into first-half stoppage-time – Novakovich had wriggled through a couple of challenges before teeing up his strike-partner, whose shot was into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Reading carved out the early opportunities after the break too – Fosu hit a piledriver into the body of Coker, before Liburd pulled the rebound marginally wide from the edge of the area.
And then the same combination which scored the opener nearly combined again – Samuel won the ball high on the flank, but Novakovich couldn’t work the ball out of his feet in time to prevent the block coming in.
Royals captain Pierce Sweeney twice made important clearances inside his own six-yard box as the Canaries looked to apply pressure in search of an equaliser.
Yet it was Reading that were looking the likelier of getting the game’s second goal – sub Lisandro Semedo worked the goalkeeper from a tight angle when he had the option of centring to Liburd; on the follow-up, Novakovich got over the ball a little too much and his shot bounced into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms.
And that second goal finally came in the closing quarter of an hour. Neat combination play down the right from Fosu with substitute Dominic Hyam saw the latter hang a cross to the back post, and when Novakovich nodded back into the six yard box, Fridjonsson was on hand to guide in a header when the danger wasn’t effectively cleared.
Reading had a little bit of late defending to do as the Canaries tried to salvage something from the game, but the defence stuck to the task to claim a clean-sheet for the Royals.
Liburd almost converted from close range to add some gloss to the scoreline after Novakovich got into the area down the right, but it mattered little as the final whistle sounded on a Reading victory.
Full-time: Reading U21 2 Norwich City U21 0
Reading U21: Moore, Stacey (Hyam 63), Griffin, Shaughnessy, Cooper, Sweeney, Samuel (Semedo 63), Kelly (Fridjonsson 61), Liburd, Novakovich, Fosu.
Unused subs: Ward, Owusu.
Goals: Novakovich (14), Fridjonsson (79).
Norwich City U21s: Killip, Hall-Johnson, Efete, Crowe (King 79), Norman, Coker, Ramsay, Grant (McGrandles 79), Eaton-Collins (Lewis 69), McIntosh, Cantwell.
Unused subs: Oxborough, Kamal.
Referee: Justin Amey