Teenagers earn victory in Premier League CupAn extremely youthful Reading Under-23 side put in a hugely impressive display to take a 1-0 victory against their Stoke City counterparts, and go top of their group in the Premier League Cup.
Sam Smith was the scorer of the only goal, just before the hour-mark, to put the Royals on the top of the pile after the second group game.
It was a performance that belied the age of the matchday squad – 18 years and 129 days the average age of the 16-man team that represented our Under-23s against the Potters.
Martin Kuhl’s side comprised entirely of teenagers – 19-year-old Andy Rinomhota was the oldest of the bunch, and captained the team. There was also a start for 16-year-old Danny Loader, the youngest of the 16-man squad.
Meanwhile Stoke were set to name full England international Jack Butland in their starting XI – but it was young goalie Harvey Isted that emerged from the tunnel, assumedly due to a recurrence of his injury picked up in the warm-up for the 23-year-old.
17-year-old Jordan Holsgrove – one of several youngsters making their first starts at this age-group – was first to cause danger, as he latched onto a Sam Smith lay-off and struck goalwards. A red and white shirt was in the way.
Reading were controlling the ball and probing patiently – and nearly got their reward midway through the half when Danny Loader drifted in off the right and whistled a left-footed shot just past the post.
Rinomhota’s bold run opened things up against a tight defence and Jake Sheppard’s overlapping run and cross needed hacking away. Minutes later, the full-back was required at the other end to nod away a deep cross with Belgian winger Thibauld Verlinden waiting to pounce.
Sam Smith was off target when some neat interplay from the Royals’ midfield – after the ball had been won high – resulted in a slipped ball from Tyler Frost into his path, but he lifted a left-footed effort over the bar.
And then a set-piece straight off the training ground wasn’t quite executed to perfection – Ryan East received outside the box and just overhit a return ball for Frost. Just before the interval, Loader’s low cross for Smith was just nicked off his toe, and Frost had a shot deflected just wide before the referee sounded the half-time whistle.
Stoke striker Hakim Abdallah had his first chance of note shortly after the restart – he capitalised on a short back-pass, but rushed his effort and Harrison Bennett was placed to block.
As the Royals continued pile the pressure on and carve out chances, it finally resulted in a goal just before the hour-mark – it was a team move of real quality, capped with some poacher’s instinct. Rinomhota showed good composure on the edge of the area to pick out Frost’s run – his initial shot was saved, but Smith followed up and finished decisively.
East wasn’t far from adding a second soon after, but his effort spun over the bar as the Royals pieced together some easy-on-the-eye passing around the Potters’ box.
The Royals might have been made to pay when, despite dominating possession, they weren’t forcing backup stopper Isted into action too regularly. At the other end, Stoke had a late flurry as sub Tyrese Campbell lashed wide and captain Eddy Lecygne had a shot blocked by East.
And then Omar Richards, who had made a telling contribution throughout, effectively sealed the win with a last-ditch tackle – denying Ollie Shenton a shot at goal from inside the six-yard box.
The left-back took a whack for his troubles, but Smith’s goal was enough to get Reading over the line with three points in their Premier League Cup game.
Full-time: Reading U23 1-0 Stoke City U23
Reading U23: Southwood, Sheppard, Richards, Andresson, Bennett (Odimayo 78), East, Rinomhota, Frost, Holsgrove, Loader, Smith.
Unused subs: Tupper, Howe, Medford-Smith, Rollinson.
Stoke City U23: Isted, T.Edwards, McJannet (Renee-Pringle 90), Lecygne, L.Edwards, Sweeney, Waddington, Jarvis, Abdallah (Campbell 71), Shenton, Verlinden (Dunwoody HT).
Unused sub: Sadiki.