A reminder of how our boys reached final four
Our Under-23s stand on the brink of the final of the Premier League Cup… and have a chance to become the first club to pick up the trophy on two occasions.
The Royals won the inaugural tournament back in 2014 – that was a straight knock-out from the first fixture. This time around, we’ve played a round-robin against three other sides and topped the group, before knocking out two north-east neighbours in order to set up today’s meeting with Norwich City.
So here’s a reminder of how our boys made it to the final four…
Group H (Birmingham, Stoke, Sheffield United)
Pooled alongside fellow Category 1 academy Stoke City and two Cat 2 clubs in Birmingham City and Sheffield United, the Royals’ campaign began back in October – and it could have hardly started any better than an Andy Rinomhota goal within a minute, paving the way for a 3-1 victory away at Birmingham as Tom McIntyre and Tyler Frost each chipped in.
That was followed by a 1-0 home win in December over Stoke at Madejski Stadium thanks to Sam Smith’s sole goal, and later that month a last-gasp free-kick by Josh Barrett salvaged a point at Bramall Lane in a thrilling 3-3 draw against the Blades, after Smith and Jamal Balogun had each scored. The Royals topped Group H at the half-way stage.
After the turn of the year, Reading began 2017 in equally prolific fashion – a 4-1 win over the Blues at Adams Park, thanks to an Andrija Novakovich brace and one apiece by Tyler Frost and Smith sealed a place in the knock-outs. Our only defeat in the group stage came at Adams Park against Sheffield United, as Frost’s goal couldn’t salvage anything in a 3-1 defeat, but our boys were emphatic in their final fixture away in Stoke as Novakovich and Barrett netted twice each in a 4-1 win.
The Royals welcomed Boro to Adams Park in the first of the knock-out games – and a blitzing display from our boys resulted in a comfortable 4-1 victory and passage to the quarter-final.
But they had to do it the hard way. Bradley Fewster gave the visitors an early lead by prodding a cross in past George Legg, but the response was swift. Joseph Mendes pegged back when his run was picked out by Ryan East, allowing the Frenchman to slot in the leveller.
And soon after half-time, the Royals had the lead – East’s corner was met by Rob Dickie’s header, whose effort was turned onto the bar, but Gabriel Osho followed in. Mendes quickly added his second and Reading’s third as the Boro defence backed off his bold run to allow him to slam in, before Yakou Meite volleyed in Reading’s fourth from close range in the late stages.
It was another north-east club that stood in Reading’s way – and this time it was our boys who hit the road. This tie was settled by just a single goal though… Novakovich converted a penalty against Peter Beardsley’s charges to earn a spot in the last four.
It was an impressive display from an especially young Reading squad, of which Novakovich was the only non-teenager. Rinomhota and Omar Richards had each drawn good stops from Newcastle goalie Nathan Harker before the break, while Reading had Luke Southwood to thank for denying Jamie Smith one on one.
However an impressive performance level all round eventually gave the Royals a route to the win; Osho was felled in the box late in the game, allowing Novakovich to strike in a much-deserved goal and send Reading through to the semi-final!
And today we face Norwich City – extra-time and penalties will be on the cards if the tie isn’t settled in 90 minutes. Should we progress, the winner of Swansea vs Portsmouth would be our opponent in the tournament’s final.
Today’s game kicks off at 1pm at Madejski Stadium, with free entry and parking for all. So come and support the boys today!