Royals fall to narrow defeat at Leigh Sports VillageReading’s Under-21s gave it their all to try and bring Manchester United’s 11-game winning run at home to an end – but were just edged out by a 1-0 scoreline at Leigh Sports Village by the current leaders of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
It has been over a year since the Red Devils’ youth side have lost on their own patch, yet Reading more than matched their hosts across the 90 minutes. However the decisive goal came shortly before the hour – Sean Long was the unfortunate party as he inadvertently got the last touch when James Weir’s point-blank effort ricocheted back off the base of the post.
Reading were certainly the brighter of the two sides in the opening 20 minutes – Jack Stacey struck narrowly beyond the far post after Aaron Kuhl’s corner wasn’t dealt with effectively, and the hosts were lucky that support didn’t quite arrive quick enough for Andrija Novakovich after he pinched the ball from RoShaun Williams just outside the United box.
The Red Devils began to look a little more threatening midway through the first period and a Marcus Rashford attempt from range didn’t miss by far. Soon after Williams was the guilty party again as he lost the ball on the edge of his own area – this time Tariqe Fosu nipped in – but again the defender went unpunished.
Matty Willock forced Stuart Moore into his first real test of the evening when he burst into space and smashed goalwards from 20 yards – the Royals stopper kept out the effort and Joe Rothwell couldn’t keep a rebound down. Down the other end, Kuhl’s short corner caught United cold and George Evans’ dipping effort was a shade over the crossbar.
The woodwork came to United’s rescue shortly after the half-hour mark – Evans intercepted a pass in midfield and gave the ball to Kuhl, whose threaded ball into the path of Novakovich was controlled and struck back across the face of goal. The shot struck the base of the post and was cleared just when Rowan Liburd looked set to convert the rebound.
The same combination came close to opening the scoring – this time it was a high ball in from Kuhl – who found himself on the right flank – which was met by a powerful Novakovich header, which Joel Pereira did well to save and hold.
Evans again came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock – Kuhl won a free-kick in a wide position, and when a United head cleared the delivery, the former Man City man controlled on his chest before unleashing a half-volley – Pereira did well to claw the deflected effort away.
United’s best chance of the first period came just before the break – Rashford’s low cut-back was met by the onrushing Joe Riley, whose shot was wildly off target.
Liburd had a decent opportunity soon after the restart – the ball broke his way with his back to goal after Fosu wriggled into the area, but he scooped his effort up and over on the turn. Willock forced an acrobatic save from Reading goalkeeper Moore when he showed neat chest control and lashed a volley on target.
Finally the deadlock was broken shortly before the hour-mark, and it was the hosts that grabbed it. Overlapping full-back Riley drove in a low cross for Weir to attack – it was turned against the near post by Weir, and the ball struck the unfortunate Long as it bounced into the net.
Noor Husin and Harry Cardwell were both introduced into the action as the Royals went on the hunt for the equaliser. However the hosts managed to hold out and seal the points - goalkeeper Pereira in particular making good decisions to command his area - meaning that despite their bests efforts, Reading headed back to Berkshire empty-handed.
Full-time: Man Utd U21 1 Reading U21 0
Reading U21: Moore, Watson, Long, Jules, Keown, Kuhl, Evans, Stacey, Fosu, Novakovich (Cardwell 68), Liburd (Husin 78).
Unused subs: Ward, Osho, Rinomhota.