U23 boss looks back at youngsters’ win against ChelseaArsenal, Man City, and now Chelsea – three of the biggest names in English football have already fallen to defeats at Under-23 level at the hands of the Royals so far this season in the Premier League 2.
Added to a 3-2 win away at Bristol Rovers for a young Reading squad in the EFL Trophy, the results have certainly caught the eye. And Martin Kuhl, the Under-23 manager, is pleased with the sort of displays his youngsters have produced so far in the newly-formed Premier League 2.
“It’s how we do things, it’s the way that we work… when you wear this badge, you’re the underdog in the big league,” said Kuhl. “We try and hold our own and survive at this level.
“Last year we stayed in the top tier and I think there was hardly a game where the opposition didn’t know that they were in for a game. That stands us in good stead. We try and do things our way.”
The win against Chelsea on Monday evening at Madejski Stadium had several different aspects to it – the Blues did have a lot of the ball, but weren’t able to use it effectively against a resolute defence. That was the case until Ike Ugbo headed them into the lead just before the interval.
But Reading fought back with character, and Andrija Novakovich grabbed assists for fine finishes by 17-year-old Tyler Frost and 18-year-old Sam Smith – the latter coming three minutes from time – as the Royals picked up another three points.
“Chelsea had possession and Stuart Moore made a couple of saves in the first-half, without them managing to dominate us,” Kuhl explained. “We had little spells in the first half where we created a few chances without hitting the target, but we stuttered in our play and didn't have flow – we paid a bit too much respect to them. In the second half we dug in and performed better.
“In the games against Southampton and Tottenham, we didn’t turn up to compete – we turned up to play without competing and got what we deserved. In the second half we asked them to be a bit more physical – they had stood off Chelsea a bit too much. That earned us the right to get a foothold in the game.
“What was pleasing is that we went 1-0 down and responded. We made a couple of little changes – Harry [Cardwell] worked his socks off up front but didn’t get the reward… that’s just one of those days. Sam is a goalscorer – and it worked, he scored the goal.
“The whole of the back line had to perform under pressure. We had to dig in and grind out the result, which in football terms shows that the mentality is good. You’ll get games where the other team has more possession and you have to stay in the game. Over the last few weeks we have let ourselves down out of possession, but against Chelsea we dug in and got the result.”