Youngsters twice pegged back by GunnersReading’s Under-18s got their Merit Group games started with a 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Saturday, as the Gunners twice came from behind to take a point.
Danny Loader netted in the fourth minute to give the Royals a lead at Shenley Training Centre, but Arsenal forward Joseph Willock levelled things up midway through the first half.
Defender Ramarni Medford-Smith re-established a lead for Reading just before the break, but the Gunners claimed a late equaliser as Emile Smith Rowe stabbed in from close range.
Under-18 manager David Dodds said: “We started the game off really quickly and pressurised their back four and goalkeeper, and we scored after a few minutes – there was some really good work by Ben House who was able to square it for Danny Loader to tap into an empty net.
“In the first half we played out and through the thirds quite well; it was quite even after that, although we probably had the better chances. Ben had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper from a bit of an angle and then had a good shout for a penalty turned down, and Ade Shokunbi attacked a ball across the box well and couldn’t quite guide it into the goal.
“They equalised a little bit against the run of play, and then we went ahead again before half-time from a set-piece – it was a good delivery from Joel Rollinson and it was converted well by Ramarni at the back-post, which was a really nice goal.
“And then in the second half we didn’t really control the game as much as we possibly could have, and they had the majority of possession. But funnily enough we had the better chances on the counter; Cameron Green had a one-on-one which the goalkeeper did well to save with his feet, and Danny Loader went through and their full-back did really well to get a tackle in without giving away a penalty.
“They scored in the last 10 minutes from a ball towards the near post that wasn’t cleared – it’s disappointing not to clear it from there and from the resulting melee they managed to score.
“So all in all, it’s a game where you’re disappointed not to win. We weren’t on top, but we certainly had some good chances, even though they had more possession in the second half.”
Full-time: Arsenal U18 2-2 Reading U18
Arsenal U18: Keto, Osei-Tutu, Oluwu, Bola, Gilmour, Dasilva (Benson 62), Smith Rowe, Fortune, Medley, Dragomir, Willock.
Unused subs: Crean, Ballard, Omole, Thompson.
Reading U18: Driscoll, Wilson (Balogun 75), Medford-Smith, Philby, Odimayo, Coleman, Shokunbi, Nolan, Rollinson, Loader, House (Green 25).
Unused subs: Hillson, Okuboyejo.