Sheffield United too strong for young Royals side...On a difficult afternoon for a young Reading side, it was visitors Sheffield United that took the points from the clash at Adams Park in a tale of three first half goals. United started quickly in High Wycombe with Jake Wright converting an early penalty to make it 1-0. Stephen Mallon's lob soon after doubled the lead, with Wright adding to his early spot-kick later in the half.
A spirited second half display from Reading saw Tyler Frost pull one back for the Royals, but in a physical encounter it was United that benefited, as they saw-out a 3-1 win in the Premier League Cup.
The Royals named a young starting line-up for the clash with the Blades, even by U23 level standards as they looked to secure their place in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup. Deniss Rakels continued his return to full fitness as he featured in the forward line for Reading, with a point needed against United to see them through.
The visitors got off to a flying start at Adams Park however when David Brooks was felled on the edge of the Reading penalty area. The forward beat his man with quick feet before being taken to the floor with the referee given no choice but to point to the spot.
Jake Wright stepped up to convert for the Blades, and despite Lewis Ward getting a hand to the low effort, he was unable to push the powerful spot-kick around the post.
A minute later and United had doubled their lead. As the Royals pushed forward looking for an instant response the Blades hit Reading with a swift counter attack, with the ball finding its way to the feet of Stephen Mallon in the Reading area. The Sheffield United man lifted his shot coolly over Ward to make the score 2-0 and put his side well in control.
As the half progressed Reading enjoyed more of the ball as they tried to move their opposition around, probing for an equaliser. The hosts went closest through Andrija Novakovich, who rounded Jake Eastwood brilliantly but saw his goal bound shot courageously blocked on the line and hacked out for a throw.
Minutes later and Ward was again called into action, but this time the Reading stopper had all the answers as he denied Brooks who bore down on goal. The keeper was quick to get down to Brooks’ low shot before denying Wright on the follow-up to keep the hosts in the game.
As the half drew to a close however United did find their third and it was Wright who struck again, this time with a header. The striker did well to latch onto a deep Blades corner and picked his spot, finding the top corner with his header to put the Yorkshire club well in control at the break.
A second half of few chances ensued, with the Royals making a real effort to fight their way back into the game in a physical contest. Neither side was able to create many opportunities as both wrestled for the initiative with a lot ball in the midfield.
Just as it seemed United would be able to see the game out, Tyler Frost popped up inside the Blades’ penalty area to pull one back for the hosts. The young forward took his opportunity well, firing a low shot past Eastwood in the United goal to give Reading hope.
As the second half ticked-on Reading upped he pressure but were unable to make any real inroads into a stubborn Sheffield United defence. The closest they came was when Andy Rinomhota was picked out at the back post by Omar Richards. The Reading midfielder leapt well, but as he looked to head home, Sam Graham managed to deflect his effort just wide and out for a corner.
As the game continued into added time the Royals threw more men forward, but United were able to see out the danger taking all three points from a hard fought encounter.
Full-time: Reading U23 1-3 Sheffield United U23
Reading Starting XI: Ward, Vancooten, Dickie (c), Osho (Odimayo 77'), Richards, Rinomhota, Holsgrove, Frost, Smith, Novakovich, Rakels (Medford-Smith 63')
Unused Subs: Southwood, Green, Rollinson
Sheffield United Starting XI: Eastwood, Bennett, Mallon (Smith 84'), Graham, Kelly, Cummings, Slater, Reed(c), Wright, Brooks (Hallam 52’), Smith (Charlesworth 67’)
Unused Subs: Warhust, Hirst
Bookings: Slater, Brooks, Smith
Goals: Wright x2, Mallon