Rakels and Stacey complete second-half turnaroundSecond-half goals from Deniss Rakels and Jack Stacey gave the Royals a friendly victory in a well-contested fixture against neighbours Swindon.
The hosts had gone ahead in the first period through former Reading Academy youngster John Goddard, but the Royals netted twice in the final 12 minutes to earn a commendable result.
Manager Jaap Stam named a young starting XI, which included seven homegrown Academy products as well as John Swift, who made his debut in midfield after joining last week.
Also making their first appearances in England were goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola and striker Joseph Mendes, each of which played a half against Al-Taawoun during the trip to the Netherlands.
The first effort of note went the way of Dominic Samuel, who carried the ball from deep in his own half after Zak Jules had nicked the ball away. Eventually he cut in off the flank but the shot deflected off teammate Swift and into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Josh Barrett set up teammate Craig Tanner soon after when he won a flick-on and showed a fierce turn of pace to latch onto it himself; goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux made the save. At the other end Jaakkola wasn’t forced into action despite Yaser Kasim opening a shooting chance – his effort spooned high and wide.
After a few probing attacks from the Royals, hosts Swindon were given a shooting chance when former Royals Academy man John Goddard was tripped outside the area. Anton Rodgers shaped up to shoot but the effort skewed wide.
Just before the midpoint of the first half, Tanner and Samuel – who returned from loan spells with Plymouth and Gillingham respectively this summer – almost combined to devastating effect. Samuel came off the left and threaded a great reverse ball into Tanner’s smart run… his shot across goal was agonisingly past the far post.
A deep cross from Tanner was collected by teenager Barrett on the right – he took a touch out of his feet and another to drill goalwards and force a sprawling save from Vigouroux. A minute later, the goalkeeper had defender Raphael Rossi-Branco to thank for stepping in front of a fierce effort by Samuel.
It was the last action for Samuel though as an injury forced him into an early exit, with less than ten minutes of the first half remaining. Deniss Rakels was the replacement.
The opener, when it came on the cusp of half-time, was a body-blow for a Reading team that had dominated the ball and the chances for much of the half. Goddard found room to shoot from 25 yards out and a heavy deflection took it beyond the reach of Jaakkola and into the net.
Half-time sub Tariqe Fosu was trying to make things tick on the left – cutting inside, he played a neat combination before feeding Rakels, but the Latvian could only shoot wide on the turn.
Town could have doubled their advantage when Conor Thomas beat the offside trap, but goalie Jaakkola stayed big and smothered the shot at the midfielder’s feet. Moments later it was Reading that almost netted – Tanner’s through-ball with the outside of his left foot was a smidgen too heavy for Barrett to latch onto, and the goalkeeper rushed out to deal with it.
Midfielder Liam Kelly had a chance to net one of his trademark free-kicks when his threaded pass was handled just outside the area by Jamie Sendles-White. Unfortunately he couldn’t make the right connection from the set-piece and it cleared the bar.
But Reading were level before long and it was Rakels who found the net. After some swifty play down the right flank, Stacey supplied a perfect low delivery to allow the Latvian striker to guide the ball past Vigouroux from close range.
And then it was Stacey who completed the turnaround with two minutes of normal time to play - a ball down the right was dummied, allowing the winger to sprint onto the ball... and with Fosu providing the distraction at the far stick, Stacey coolly slotted past the goalkeeper at his near post to win it for the Royals.
It may have only been a friendly, but a young Royals squad gave Reading the bragging rights against our rivals!
Full-time: Swindon Town 1-2 Reading
Swindon Town: Vigouroux, Barry, Kasim (Iandolo 76), Rodgers, Thompson, Goddard (Young 76), Thomas, Hylton (Stewart 61), Brophy (Ormonde-Ottewill 61), Sendles-White, Rossi-Branco.
Unused subs: Henry, Evans, Spalding, Trialist.
Goal: Goddard (45).
Reading: Jaakkola, Keown (Long HT), Jules (Griffin 61), Dickie, Campi, Kelly (Rinomhota 77), Barrett (Stacey 73), Swift (Evans HT), Tanner, Samuel (Rakels 37), Mendes (Fosu HT).
Unused subs: Collings, Hyam.
Goals: Rakels (79), Stacey (88).