Royals defeated at HogwoodOur Under-18 side were on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline at Hogwood on Saturday, as visitors Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Under-18 Premier League South standings.
With a number of eligible players featuring regularly for the Under-23s recently and two more players ruled out of contention at the eleventh hour, it wasn’t the strongest available Royals squad that took to the field.
Nevertheless there was only George McEachran’s goal for the Blues to choose between the teams for the final hour, until Callum Hudson-Odoi added a buffer with virtually the last kick of the game.
Under-18 manager David Dodds said: “We had a little bit of bad luck before the – one of the Under-23s was injured so our captain Akinwale Odimayo had to be taken out of our team so he could be involved with them.
“In then in the warm-up, our leading goalscorer Ben House tweaked his back and had a back spasm, so he couldn’t play – that was a similar blow. We had to juggle things a little bit.
“All that aside, we started the game playing out from the back a little bit too slow. For the first 20 minutes we were under a bit of pressure.
“But then we got a foothold in the game and started switching the ball a bit better, and had a few attacks and one really good chance when a cross came over to Danny Loader – it was an effort on target but their defender did really well, he spread himself and hit him on the neck or the back.
“In the second half we got in their third a lot more, but we couldn’t really turn the situations where we played quite well into chances. We didn’t create as many quality chances as we usually do. But all in all you’d say they deserved it.
“There are a couple of positives – Danny Loader is now going away with England, and he played really well on limited supply. And it was great to see Tom Holmes back for his starting debut this season after having a long-term injury with his back.”
A place in the top four is not yet assured, with members of the chasing pack all hoping to reach the Elite League for the final seven fixtures – that would mean having the opportunity to compete against the top four finishers from the northern section, as well as rematches against the three others from the southern division.
“We’ve got three games left – and this season we’ve promoted a lot of lads to the Under-23s, which is great,” Dodds continued.
“And that’s what football development is all about. Nobody will remember who got into the top league in a few years’ time; they’ll be looking at who’s in the first team.
“I’d settle for that all day – if we can get more players into the Under-23s, that great. If we can also get into the top league, that’s a bonus. The massive priority for us is to get players into the Under-23s and eventually from there into the first team.
“If in the meantime we can get into the top league, then that’d be great too so that we can pit our wits against the best teams in the country."
Full-time: Reading U18 0-2 Chelsea U18
Reading U18: Driscoll, Howe, Balogun (Green 68), Holmes, Philby, Shokunbi, Holsgrove, Rollinson, Tella (Wallace 68), Coleman, Loader.
Unused subs: Hillson, Wilson.
Chelsea U18: Cumming, Grant, Dasilva (Jameson 90), Guehi, McCormick, Familio-Castillo, Grant, Hudson, McEachran, Gallagher (Panzo 86), Taylor-Crossdale (St Clair 81).
Unused subs: Thompson.