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U23s’ best efforts in vain against Chelsea

5 February 2017

Royals defeated in Aldershot

The Royals were defeated at the hands of Chelsea U23 in Premier League 2 action on Sunday afternoon, as the Blues ran out 2-0 winners at the EBB Stadium.

There was game-time for some senior squad members - Deniss Rakels continued his return to fitness by playing over an hour, while Joseph Mendes and Tennai Watson each played the duration.

The defeat wasn't for want of chances for the Royals, and in fact the opener came in rather unfortunate fashion when Rob Dickie inadvertently found his own net.  Ike Ugbo added a second for the hosts, converting a low cross from close range early in the second half.

The hosts fashioned a chance within moments of kick-off, as Ike Ugbo’s cross found its way all the way across to advancing full-back Todd Kane, but he got under his half-volley.

But then Reading began to get into a groove and test the Chelsea defence.  Two route-one balls for Joseph Mendes were just too heavy for the striker to latch onto before goalkeeper Bradley Collins.

And then the goalie was forced into the first meaningful stop of the match; Andy Rinomhota led the charge for Reading and threaded into Andrija Novakovich, whose low strike was kept out by the feet of the goalkeeper.  The ball stayed alive, before Omar Richards fired wide of the far post.

Josh Barrett was next to fire goalwards, only to see a shot blocked – and Chelsea countered quickly through Charly Musonda, whose tricky play on the left earned an opportunity for Charlie Wakefield.  It was an opportunity missed – fired over the bar.

The breakthrough was unfortunate for Reading.  Luke Southwood, who had calmly kept out Mason Mount’s effort moments earlier, got strong palms to Wakefield’s effort but inadvertently turned his stop against teammate Dickie and into the net.

Far from downhearted, Reading continued to carve out chances.  Tennai Watson and Novakovich combined beautifully on the right flank but the former’s low delivery was cut out with Deniss Rakels waiting to pounce.  Moments later, Watson was involved at the other end to prevent Musonda doubling the lead.

Barrett opted to shoot from a tight angle after receiving from Richards when a centred ball might have been the better angle, and saw a low shot saved.  And soon after, Barrett did opt to square as he cushioned Rinomhota’s deep cross, but Joseph Mendes volleyed over from six yards.

And Reading’s wastefulness was punished soon after the restart.  Dujon Sterling got to the byline on the left and pulled back for Ugbo to slide in the Blues’ second.

Chelsea’s quick start to the second half was almost rewarded with a third as Musonda picked out Mount after some clever play – Southwood calmly held down low.

More bold play on the left by Rinomhota created another opportunity, as he lofted a cross deep for Novakovich to nod down; Mendes took a touch to control on his thigh, but sliced his effort wide.

Defender Andresson nearly had his name on the scoresheet for the right reasons as he got his head to a looping ball - Collins acrobatically clawed the nodded effort away from the bottom corner.

And Barrett was a whisker away from grabbing one back from a free-kick, after Novakovich's mazy run was halted on the edge of the area - he was marginally wide.

After Luke Southwood was twice alive to deny Ugbo - once down low after a threaded ball from Dominic Solanke, and then leaping to turn away from the top corner - it was Mendes again who was unable to convert a good opportunity.  A raking ball downfield was met on the run by the Frenchman, who tried to lift over the advancing Collins; the effort fell just the wrong side of the post and nestled into the side netting.

In the end, the openings amounted to nothing as it was the hosts who came away from the Recreation Ground with the three points.

Full-time: Chelsea U23 2-0 Reading U23

Chelsea U23: Collins, Kane (Quintero HT), Colley, Chalobah, Sterling, Mount, Wakefield, Sammut, Ugbo, Solanke, Musonda (Maddox 65).
Unused subs: Thompson, Nartey, Christie-Davies.
Goal: Dickie o.g. 18, Ugbo 49.

Reading U23: Southwood, Watson, Richards (Osho 70), Dickie, Andresson, East, Rinomhota, Barrett, Novakovich, Rakels (Smith 65), Mendes.
Unused subs: Ward, Medford-Smith, Frost.

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