Reading beat Blues in difficult conditionsThe young Royals secured a place in the top group stage of the Barclays U18 Premier League on Saturday, by registering a 2-0 win over table-toppers Chelsea at Hogwood Park.
The three points guarantees a top-four finish for the Royals in the U18 Premier League (South), and consequently means the Royals will go on to face the best of the teams from the North division in the second part of the campaign!
Each of the top four finishers from the 12-team South and North divisions will compete in a new combined league; those places 5 to 8 from the two sections will meet in a second league, and the bottom four from the two regions will compete in a third-tier combined league.
In blustery and difficult conditions at Hogwood Park, second-placed Royals hosted top-of-the-league Chelsea; Reading started the better of the two sides, playing out from the back as they kicked against the wind in the first period.
The Royals began to put pressure on the Chelsea goal, and it was not long until they made the breakthrough. It was centre-back Axel Andresson who put Reading into the lead when he rose highest to head in a corner from the left hand side on 17 minutes.
Chelsea tried to make an instant reply as Joseph Colley fired a low shot narrowly wide. The Young Royals were looking in control though, and doubled their lead through captain Josh Barrett seven minutes before the break.
The goal came through unusual circumstances as Barrett stepped up to take a Reading corner. The midfielder saw Chelsea keeper, Jared Thompson, move to the far post and used the wind to whip his corner to the front post, finding the back of the net and doubling the Royals lead.
In a second half that was dominated by Chelsea, as they looked for a route back into the game, it was the Royals that carved out the best chance, with the visitors having to clear off the line twice after a powerful run from Barrett.
Chelsea came close through Ike Ugbo when his shot went narrowly wide after the striker reacted quickest at the near post. The Royals continued to pose a threat on the counter attack but could not find a third goal to kill off the Blues.
Chelsea’s best chance of the game came with ten minutes to play through Ugbo yet again. The striker met a cross from Mason Mount only to see his header come back off the crossbar. Harvey St Clair also came close for Chelsea firing just over from the edge of the area but the Royals held on to reduce Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to three points and secure a place in the next stage of the Barclays U18 Premier League.
Royals Under-18s coach David Dodds was pleased that the boys could secure the right result despite the difficult conditions.
“It was a great result,” said Dodds. “The conditions were very difficult and at times the game was quite scrappy with a lot of loose balls because of the wind. We were focused on getting the result though and that’s what matters.”
“Our main target at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top four and we’re really happy to have achieved that now.”
Reading: Luke Southwood, Dan Akinwumni, Omar Richards, Harrison Bennett, Gabriel Osho, Axel Andresson, Tyler Frost (Josh Chatee 70), Ryan East, Sam Smith (Dan Loader 68), Josh Barrett, Conor Davis
Unused subs: Teddy Howe, Joe Tupper, Ade Shokunbi.
Chelsea: Jared Thompson; Joseph Colley, Ali Suljic, Richard Nartey; Dujon Sterling (Martell Taylor-Crossdale 85), Ruben Sammut (c), Luke McCormick, Cole Dasilva (Harvey St Clair 58); Mason Mount, Jacob Maddox (Miro Muheim 62); Ike Ugbo.
Unused subs: Jamie Cumming, Tariq Uwakwe.
Referee: J. Welsh