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Royals on duty | Goals, clean sheets, wins!

25 March 2017

Goals for Loader and Andresson, clean sheets for Gunter and Oxford...

Royals full-back Chris Gunter helped to dent the hopes of World Cup qualification of a couple of his Reading teammates on Friday night, as he played the full ninety minutes in a goalless draw in Dublin.

Club colleagues Paul McShane and Liam Kelly were both called into the Republic of Ireland squad last week but had to withdraw through injury and Gunter kept a clean sheet against the Republic, but a point was not enough to prevent Chris Coleman's Euro 2016 heroes losing ground on Serbia who won to go top of the group.

Former Royals striker Shane Long couldn't find a way past Gunter but he did receive a huge amount of praise for the compassion all Royals fans know he possesses in bundles when he was filmed hugging broken leg-victim Seamus Coleman while he was being treated on the pitch at the Aviva.

Striker Deniss Rakels came off the bench to play 21 minutes of competitive football, his first taste of first team action since suffering an ankle injury at the very start of the season, representing his native Latvia against Switzerland on Saturday evening.

He couldn't avoid defeat in Geneva though as Latvia - who included former Royals promotion hero Kaspars Gorkss in their side - lost 1-0 to Group B leaders Switzerland. The Latvians have just three points on the board thus far and now look forward to a friendly in Georgia next week.

Midfielder John Swift came off the bench for Aidy Boothroyd's England Under-21 side this weekend but couldn't prevent his country falling to a slender 1-0 defeat that mirrored the scoreline between England and Germany's first teams on Friday evening.

Nadiem Amiri's strike from the edge of the box wrong-footed goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to open the scoring on Friday and Swift, who replaced Tottenham's Harry Winks with 18 minutes remaining of the friendly game in Germany, couldn't help find an equaliser for the Three Lions.

Loanee defender Reece Oxford has played twice in good wins for England's Under-19s over the last few days. Firstly he came on for Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold to play the last 24 minutes in a 3-0 win over Norway at St George's Park.

Then, on Friday evening, Oxford played a full part in an impressive 3-0 win at home to Spain's youngsters - keeping a second successive clean sheet as England Under-19s qualified for the Euro finals in style, defeating the seven-time winners at St George’s Park.

One of our highly-rated Academy youngsters, Danny Loader, found the back of the net for England on Saturday when he scored one of the U17s' four in a comfortable win over Slovenia.

He had come off the bench to replace Manchester City's Phil Foden in a 5-3 win over Czech Republic a few days earlier, but this afternoon the Royals forward started in Bosnia and scored the third in a 4-0 victory that secured our U17s qualification for the UEFA European U17 Championship.

Another of our Academy starlets has been with England over the last few days, goalkeeper Luke Southwood has watched from the bench as an unused substitute as England U20s have drawn 2-2 with Portugal and beaten France 1-0.

And young defender Axel Andresson got his name on the scoresheet when he headed home Iceland's fourth in an eventful 4-4 draw against Georgia on Saturday.

After running France and Macedonia close in qualification for the summer’s U21 European Championships, Andresson - who has been enjoying a spell out on loan with Bath City since November - made his mark when he beat the keeper to a ball into the box and directed his header home in the 69th minute. But the hosts came back to score a 95th minute equaliser.

And there is more international action to follow in the coming days...

Ali Al-Habsi: Oman v Bhutan, Muscat, 28th March, 16:00 kick-off.
Reading Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi is due to represent his native Oman in the opening game of the countries Asia Cup qualification bid. Oman sit in a qualification group alongside the Maldives and Palestine as well as Bhutan, who they will face next Tuesday in Muscat.

Oman will be looking to get their Asia Cup qualifying off to the best possible start, with Al-Habsi due to make his first appearance for his country in 2017 on the March 28th.

The Reading stopper has been in fine form of late, producing one of the performances of the season with his stunning display at Sheffield Wednesday last Friday, as Reading took all three points away from Hillsborough. He will be looking to continue that level of performance when he pulls on the captain’s armband for Oman in a weeks time. 

Adrian Popa:  Romania v Denmark, Cluj, 26th March, 19:45 kick-off. 
After netting his first goal for the club last Friday in dramatic late circumstances, Reading winger Adrian Popa has received a call-up from his native Romania for their World Cup qualifier against Denmark in Cluj on Sunday evening.

Romania sit fourth in Group E with five points on the board so far in qualification. Sitting only a point behind Sunday’s opposition Denmark, the game represents the chance for Popa and the rest of the Romania squad to leapfrog the third placed Danes and, results permitting, could see them rise as high as second in the group. 
Deniss Rakels: Latvia v Georgia, Tbilisi, 28th March, 11:00 kick-off, International Friendly
Rakels has an opportunity to get more minutes under his belt on Tuesday night when Latvia take on Georgia in Tbilisi.

John Swift: England U21 v Denmark, AutoC Park Randers, 27th March 19:00 kick-off.
Royals midfielder John Swift now travels to Denmark for another friendly ahead of this summer’s U21 European Championships.

Reece Oxford: England U19 v Belarus, 27th March, St Georges Park.
The West Ham loanee will finish his international break with a match-up against Belarus on Monday, having featured in both Keith Downing's teams that have won twice at St George's Park so far this week.

Danny Loader:England U17 v Bosnia & Herzegovina U17, Tuesday 28th March, Bosnia
Danny Loader will hope to add to his England goalscoring tally in the dead rubber which is a game against his hosts, Bosnia & Herzegovina, on Tuesday. Another impressive performance could help our Academy product's chances of cementing a place in Steve Cooper's squad for the U17 European Championships in Croatia this summer.

Luke Southwood:England U20 v Senegal, Tuesday 28th March, 5pm, Brittany
With the other two goalkeepers having played in the opening two games, Southwood could get his chance when England take on Senegal at the Stade Municipal du Haut-Champ in Ploufragan Ville on Tuesday.

Zak Jules and Jake Sheppard:Scotland U21 v Estonia U21, Tuesday 28th March, St Mirren Park
Royals duo Zak Jules and Jake Sheppard have both been called up to the Scotland U21 squad to face Estonia at St Mirren Park next Tuesday. Jules has been with Scottish side Motherwell on loan since January, with seven appearances to his name for the club north of the border so far this season. The defender has even netted for the Steelmen in a 2-1 away win at Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership.

Midfielder Jake Sheppard has also been out on loan in the last couple of months, with National League outfit Dagenham and Redbridge. Sheppard has found the net twice in his nine appearances for the Daggers, with both players hoping to help the Scotland U21s return to winning ways after a 4-0 defeat to Slovakia in their last outing back in November 2016.

Axel Andresson:Iceland U21 v Saudi Arabia U21 , Tuesday 28th March
Axel Andresson will hope he can feature in the last of three friendlies for Iceland Under-21s when they take on Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

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