Academy side defeat Cottagers in FA Youth CupRelive the game minute-by-minute on the match blog - click here!
On another night of high drama for Reading’s Under-18s, the Royals ultimately claimed a 3-1 victory against Fulham at Motspur Park, and booked a place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.
It was another incident-packed affair, which saw penalties missed at either end and the hosts’ goalkeeper sent off – and now the winner of Met Police vs Wolves await Reading at the next stage.
Like in the third-round tie with Sheffield United, Reading had to show combine quality and ability with guts and tenacity in order to come from behind and get the right result.
It had looked like it might be a long night for the Royals, as Fulham rushed into a third-minute lead. Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson netted the opening goal of the game, curling in beyond Luke Southwood to put the finishing touch on an incisive team move after Lucas De La Torre laid off.
Moments later the hosts had a chance to double the lead from the penalty spot, as Dennis Adeniran drew a foul in the area as he got on the wrong side of Axel Andresson. The midfielder grabbed the ball himself to try and fire the Cottagers further ahead from 12 yards, only for Southwood to get two strong palms to the effort and keep the deficit down to one.
Fulham were the team on top in the early stages, although Sam Smith came a whisker away from levelling – Conor Davis sent in a strafing cross which was headed back across goal by the striker, and just beyond the far post.
Stephen Humphrys was coming into the ascendency for Fulham and twice missed the target narrowly – the first as he latched onto the ball on the edge of the area, and secondly as a volley after danger was half-cleared. Omar Richards had to make an important tackle to keep Thorsteinsson from doubling his tally after he bundled through some challenges.
Despite Fulham’s strong first-half showing, Reading could have gone in level at the break, as a low cross from the right by Tyler Frost was met at the back post and somehow kept out by the legs of Taye Ashby-Hammond. Captain Josh Barrett also had a chance just before half-time, but curled over after receiving Harrison Bennett’s cushioned pass on the edge of the area.
Early in the second half, Smith had another headed chance – in the end his deft header was a tad too delicate, as he applied a glancing touch on Richards’ deep delivery and missed wide.
The Royals were growing into the game more and more, beginning to dominate possession and play fine passing football. Barrett, dictating the tempo from deep, sent in a cross from the right which just skimmed off the heads of both Smith and Davis, and soon after drilled low across goal from the left with no-one able to apply a finishing touch.
Finally, however, Reading’s chances were rewarded with a goal – and it was Tyler Frost that grabbed it. Daniel Akinwunmi, the right-back, gambled on a flick-on and consequently burst into space on the flank – he showed composure to pick out midfielder Frost in the middle, who powered in with a first-time shot to fire level.
Fulham were rocked – and soon were down to 10 men. Goalkeeper Ashby-Hammond committed a foul on Smith as the striker picked up possession in the box – after seeing no advantage develop for Reading, the referee blew up and pointed to the spot, and left with no choice but to give the goalie his marching orders.
The spot-kick was a long time coming, while Joshua Lukwata was subbed on between the posts, and eventually Barrett had the chance to put Reading ahead from the spot as he did against Sheffield United. This time, though, he miscued his effort and struck wide – the goals remained deadlocked.
That missed chance didn’t stop the Royals’ flow though. Quite conversely, Reading kept pushing for a winner – and effectively Ryan East provided just that in the final 10 minutes. The midfield man found room to dig out a shot from the edge of the box, and it squirmed through the bodies massed in the area and nestled into the net.
Fulham desperately sought an equaliser and threw men forward, which only left gaps at the back for the Royals to exploit. Jerome Opuku did well to extinguish a 2v1 breakaway as the visitors looked to counter, sending Barrett into a blind alley.
But the game was sealed as it ticked into stoppage time. Another swift counter saw Smith receive in the area, and he calmly tucked a left-footed effort inside the goalkeeper’s near post to wrap up a successful evening for Reading.
Full-time: Fulham U18 1 Reading U18 3
Fulham starting XI: Ashby-Hammond, Fossey, Sessegnon, Opuku, Davies, Kait, De La Torre, Adeniran, Walker, Humphrys, Thorsteinsson.
Subs: Lukwata, Pearce, Kwietniewski, Nabay, Jenz.
Goal: Thorsteinsson (3).
Reading starting XI: Southwood, Akinwunmi, Richards, Osho, Andresson, Bennett, Frost, East, Barrett, Davis, Smith.
Subs: Tupper, Holmes, Loader, Coleman, Howe.
Goals: Frost (75), East (83), Smith (90).