Goals from Osho and Smith give Royals victory18-year-old duo Gabriel Osho and Sam Smith scored either side of half-time for Reading’s Under-23s to give the Royals a 2-0 away win against Manchester United.
United were the winners of the Under-21 Premier League last season, before the league reformed as Premier League 2 over the summer – and this result took the Royals ahead of the Red Devils in the tight league standings.
Smith had agonisingly struck the post in stoppage time to be denied a winner against his former club when the teams met at Adams Park earlier in the season, but his goal at Leigh Sports Village sealed the deal after fellow first-year pro Osho had also scored.
It was a Royals team with a youthful complexion – 20-year-old forward Andrija Novakovich was the only non-teenager in the match squad, while there was a first start at this level for 16-year-old Tom Holmes.
The Royals could have gone ahead even earlier when Omar Richards pressed Matthew Olosunde into an error – he gifted the ball to Novakovich, who in turn fed Josh Barrett on the right, but the defender made amends to hook a low drive off the goal-line.
Callum Gribbin could and should have put United ahead as he latched onto a flicked header – goal-side of the defenders, he only had goalkeeper Luke Southwood to beat… but the Royals man was off his line in a flash, made himself big to close off the angles, and the dinked effort landed the wrong side of the post.
Josh Barrett’s set-piece delivery had been causing chaos in the Red Devils’ box in the first period – a drilled corner-kick delivery was met on the edge of the six-yard by a firm header from the onrushing Novakovich – yet somehow Kieran O’Hara’s reactions allowed him to get a strong palm to it and keep the scores level.
But soon after, the goalkeeper was rooted and helpless as Osho gave Reading the lead. Barrett’s outswinging free-kick from the right byline was guided back across goal by the head of Osho, nestling high in the net to open up a lead.
After the break, Scott McTominay came close to squeezing in an equaliser; Holmes’ lunging block only served to deflect the ball high, but Southwood’s agility allowed him to scamper back and tip over the bar as the ball dropped out of the sky.
And instead the second goal of the game went Reading’s way – again, Barrett’s involvement was key. His deep corner was met at the back stick by Axel Andresson, and when Tyrell Warren’s headed clearance only found its way to Smith, the former United striker looped his headed effort over the stranded O’Hara to double the score before the hour-mark.
Barrett had two chances to add his name to the scoresheet – firstly after Tyler Frost released the midfield runner, he checked his run smartly, opened his body, and then curled just beyond the far post. And then it was good hold-up play and awareness from American forward Novakovich to thread through to Barrett, whose low shot was saved with O’Hara’s legs.
It mattered little as the Royals held on to secure a vital three points at United’s expense and move up to eighth in the Premier League 2 table.
It was a big result in the context of the league – with five games remaining, the entire bottom half of the 12-team table are separated by just two points.
Full-time: Manchester United U23 0-2 Reading U23
Manchester United U23: O’Hara (Johnstone 69), Olosunde (Warren 46), Scott, Tuanzebe, Mitchell, McTominay, Willock (McIntosh-Buffonge 60), Gribbin, Harrop, Kehinde, Redmond.
Unused subs: Whelan, Bohui.
Reading U23: Southwood, Holmes, Richards, Osho, Andresson, Holsgrove, Frost, Rinomhota, Barrett, Smith, Novakovich.
Unused subs: Driscoll, Medford-Smith, Shokunbi, Rollinson, Vancooten.