Youthful U18 side overcome Rovers in LancashireThe Royals’ Under-18s scored twice within two minutes to turn a deficit into a lead, as they recorded a 2-1 win away to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
It was a particularly young Royals squad, with debuts at U18 level for U16 winger Khalid Simmo and U15 full-back Jeriel Dorsett. Just three of the outfield starters were in the second year of their scholarship.
Rovers took the lead with around 20 minutes to play through Charley Doyle, but they had been pegged back within two minutes as Jamal Balogun was tripped in the box, allowing Cameron Green to covert the resultant penalty.
And just as quickly, a fine bit of interplay saw striker Ben House played in – he kept his cool and slotted past home stopper Ben Ascroft. The hosts put some late pressure on, even in spite of Tre Pemberton’s dismissal for a second bookable offence, but Reading held on for their first win of the Elite League.
Under-18 manager David Dodds said: “We went with a very inexperienced team – we had three first-years scholars and an Under-15 in the back four, and on the wings we had two Under-16s. And to compound things a little bit, Blackburn had their full Youth Cup team out, which beat Arsenal, apart from two players. But our boys did okay.
“Blackburn were strong and had most of the play in the first 15 minutes; they had us pinned in a bit to begin, but we stuck at it. And then we found a way out and passed our way across the half-way line, and it became an even contest.
“We had a couple of really good situations in the half-hour before half-time and a few crosses which we possibly could have scored from. We played quite fluently before the break.
“They finally got their goal at around 70 minutes, and luckily we went up the other end through young Jeriel Dorsett, who put a ball over to the other full-back Jamal Balogun who was running into the box on the other side. He drove into the box, nicked the ball and their lad took him down for a penalty.
“So after a minute or two of them scoring, Cameron Green converted the penalty to level it up. That was a good response to going a goal down away from home for our young team.
“And then a minute or two later, we put together another good move – Jeriel put another good ball down the side of their defence and Ade Shokunbi flicked it through to Ben House, who got across their last defender and dummied and finished really well.
“After that we did the fatal thing of dropping a little bit too deep. We had a couple of counter attacks, but they put a lot of balls into our box because we had dropped so deep.
“They had a chap sent off with about 10 minutes to go for a second yellow, as he caught our goalkeeper. We talked after the game about whether we could have found a pass out once they went down to 10, and got out by passing through.
“It felt like we wanted to clear the ball – but of course that happens at all levels when you’re leading and the opposition have nothing to lose and you feel a little bit defensive.
“It will be great experience for them and it was a good day. We had a long journey up on the day and we played against an experienced side. All in all the younger players had a good experience.
“And the scholars showed a really good mentality by talking to the younger players and encouraging them through the game.”
Full-time: Blackburn Rovers U18 1-2 Reading U18
Blackburn Rovers U18: Ascroft, Jackson, Thompson, Magloire, Doyle, Wright (Lynch 83), Mols, Rankin-Costello (Buckley 85), Pemberton, Butterworth.
Unused subs: Campbell, Carter, Paton.
Reading U18: Driscoll, Balogun, Dorsett, Odimayo, Philby, Coleman, Shokunbi (Sparta 90), Nolan, Simmo, Green, House.
Unused subs: Kealy, Burley, Okuboyejo.