Novakovich nets the only goal from the spotThe Royals Under-23s earned themselves a spot in the final four of the 2016/17 Premier League Cup with a 1-0 away win against Peter Beardsley’s Newcastle United.
It was a particularly young Royals squad at Northumberland FA, which included three 17-year-olds from the Academy playing above their age group – Andrija Novakovich, aged 20, was the only non-teenager involved.
The scores were level going into the final 20 minutes, but defender Gabriel Osho drew a foul in the box, allowing Novakovich to calmly slot in from the penalty spot and send Reading into the semi-final of the competition.
Reading are the first team to book their spot in the semis, with the other three fixtures due to take place later in the day. Swansea vs Brighton kicked off at 2pm, while each of Liverpool vs Norwich and Portsmouth vs Colchester each kick off at 7pm.
Chances for both sides were at a premium for most of the first period, though the Royals could have taken a lead into the break when Andy Rinomhota and Omar Richards each drew saves from Nathan Harker just before the whistle sounded for half-time.
And there was still time before the interval for Luke Southwood to pull out a critical stop as Jamie Holmes was slid in for a one-on-one – the goalie made a one-handed save, and Adam Wilson was denied on the follow-up by a sliding challenge from Richards.
Novakovich had a chance within a minute of the restart, but couldn’t apply the critical touch to a centred ball from strike-partner Sam Smith, and Richards wasn’t able to capitalise on a defensive mix-up in the Magpies ranks as he steered a shot wide.
But Reading finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute as Luke Charman’s foul on Osho resulted in a spot-kick for the Royals, allowing Novakovich to send Harker the wrong way and send Reading ahead.
American forward Novakovich was denied a second just moments later by the feet of Harker, but then the Toon put the pressure on for the equalising goal. Home sub Yasin Ben El-Mhanni released a fierce drive which Southwood had to match soon after his introduction.
But the Royals held firm in the late stages – and we’re into the final four once more!
Our lads were the inaugural winners of the competition back in 2014, and we’re just one hurdle away from booking our place in the final once more.
Full-time: Newcastle United U23 0-1 Reading U23
Newcastle United U23: Harker: Williams (El-Mhanni 73), Good (Newberry 49), Findlay, Gibson: Jack Hunter, Barlaser: Holmes, Charman, Wilson (Fernandez 88): Heardman.
Unused subs: Huuhtanen, Ward.
Reading U23: Southwood, Holmes, Osho, Andresson, Richards, East (Medford-Smith 85), Frost, Rinomhota, Smith, Holsgrove, Novakovich.
Unused subs: Driscoll, Vancooten, Barrett.