Smith brace and Barrett strike seal Royals' passageRelive the game minute-by-minute on the match blog - click here!
The Royals booked a place in the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup, leaving 3-0 victors from a Friday-night trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers!
Sam Smith scored twice in the first half at Molineux – and came close to making it a hat-trick after the break, only for a low cross to evade him, a good opportunity clearing the bar, and a late clearance off the line.
Instead it was captain Josh Barrett – who had set up both of Smith’s goals with ambitious play down the left – who got our third; Omar Richards’ perfectly-weighted ball allowed the playmaker to caress in the sealing goal.
After Barrett had struck a sighter from long range in the early stages, centre-half Gabriel Osho was on hand to get an important flick onto the ball as a cross came over, keeping the game goalless during the early exchanges. Tyler Frost also had an opportunity for Reading, receiving the ball in the right channel, but could only find the side netting.
But the deadlock was broken before the 20-minute mark – and there was plenty of quality about the build-up. A lovely little flick from Conor Davis on the left flank allowed him to escape the attention of his marker; from there, the attacker set away Barrett down the wing, who in turn curled an inswinging cross along the deck – Smith was charged with the simple task of hammering in from inside the six-yard box.
And just over ten minutes later, it was the same combination again – Barrett steamed down the left and showed great skill to prevent any defenders from getting a toe onto the ball – and when it looked like he was about to run out of room, the midfielder picked a gap to square for Smith, who hammered in under the bar.
The deficit was almost halved on a couple of occasions by Wolves – Joe Delacoe glanced a header just off target when full-back Cameron John whipped over a cross, and forward Bright Enobokhare pulled a shot just off target after a mazy run.
Frost’s low delivery was only just out of reach for Smith within a minute of the restart, but from there Wolves set about causing problems for the Royals. Enobakhare burst into the box and it needed a well-timed tackle from Axel Andresson to deny a shooting chance; penalty claims were waved away.
And less than ten minutes after the restart, the game was effectively settled through Barrett. Left-back Richards cut infield and slipped a ball into Barrett’s path, allowing the skipper to poke past the onrushing goalkeeper for the Royals’ third.
A swift counter from a Wolves corner nearly resulted in Smith’s third goal – Reading’s attack outnumbered the home defence, but the striker blazed over Rhys Bills’ crossbar as he escaped the clutches of the tracking defender.
Wolves created their share of chances throughout the game – and defender had to be alert to sweep a clearance away as Jordan Allan sent in a low cross towards fellow sub Nicu Carnat. The Romanian winger had a golden chance to reduce the arrears with three minutes remaining, as a low cross was only partially dealt with, but his powerful half-volley struck the underside of the bar, bounced down off the line and was cleared.
Smith’s latest chance for the hat-trick saw him beat the goalkeeper to the ball, and poke a shot towards goal from a tight angle – Ryan Leak spoilt the party, diverting behind.
But it mattered little – the Royals ended three goals to the good, booking a trip to either AFC Wimbledon or Chelsea in the quarter-final!
Full-time: Wolves U18 0 Reading U18 3
Wolves U18: Bills, Ball, John, Finnie, Leak, Herk, Ronan, Delacoe, Enobakhare, Armstrong.
Subs: Osbourne, Beesley, Levingston, Allan, Carnat.
Reading U18s: Southwood, Akinwunmi, Richards, Bennett, Osho, Andresson, Frost, East, Smith, Barrett, Davis.
Subs vs Wolves: Tupper, Holmes, Chatee, Coleman, Howe.