Reading lose out to Swansea in South Wales
It was heartbreak in the final of the Premier League Cup for Reading's Under-23s, whose determined efforts were unrewarded as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to hosts Swansea City.
A lively Swans outfit - looking to complete a double for silverware after sealing the Premier League 2 Division 2 title - were a constant menace; Reading provided their own threats but couldn't convert their opportunities.
So a double from Adam King - just before the break and then 10 minutes from time - ensured the silverware would go to South Wales.
It was another young selection for Reading; Yakou Meite and Andrija Novakovich, 21 and 20 respectively, were the only non-teenagers in the 16-man squad for the Royals.
The Royals began patiently and denied Swansea a sniff of possession – and they fashioned the first opportunity as Ryan East sent over a corner, but captain Rob Dickie glanced past the far post.
But when Swansea finally got control of the ball, they threatened George Legg’s goal and forced the stopper into some good stops. Daniel James found space on the left flank and drew a low stop, before George Byers’ free-kick beat the well, but not the goalie.
And then Legg again had to be alert when Omar Richards’ clearance, as he arrived on the cover, fell straight to James. He curled towards the far post – Legg’s diving save kept the scores level.
After withstanding some pressure, the Royals carved out two good opportunities within as many minutes. The first was instigated by a Tyler Frost counter – driving upfield, he fired goalwards from the edge of the area and forced a sprawling save from Gregor Zabret. The ball squirmed to Novakovich, who improvised a scorpion kick as the ball fell behind him, but he couldn’t generate the power.
Then Dickie struck woodwork as he again met an East corner – his header thundered against the crossbar, and he turned the rebound over as it fell quickly back to him.
Adam King hit side netting for the Swans as a Connor Roberts cross looped high and caused havoc, and then Oli McBurnie skipped past a challenge and forced another smart stop from Legg as the Reading stopper continued to frustrate the hosts.
Novakovich was twice denied as a frantic game remained goalless – firstly as Josh Barrett slipped him in and had an effort deflected, and then when Frost nipped a ball through.
A minute after Barrett had seen his low shot saved from 20 yards, King opened the scoring. Another menacing run by James down the left bought space for a cross, and a fizzed delivery was met by the forehead of the attacker – sending the hosts into the break with the advantage. That may not have been the case had Barrett netted from a free-kick after Omar Richards drew a foul – he pulled just past the post.
The Swans began the second half in similarly lively fashion and McBurnie wasn't far from doubling the lead as he snuck in down the left, only to see a deflected shot break kindly for Legg.
And then Gabriel Osho needed to be alert to clear for a corner when full-back Tyler Reid rolled a defender and crossed from the byline.
Legg then had to show his elasticity again to deny Byers from a free-kick, saving low to his left with a strong palm - King struck the rebound wide.
Novakovich's subtle touches outside the Swans box opened things up, and it needed a touch from skipper Keston Davies to take the American's strike over the bar for a Royals corner.
Richards showed his defensive alertness to turn a low cross by James past the far post and away from King, denying the same combo a second goal.
However King did grab that second goal in the final 10 minutes; Reading had been enjoying a strong spell but a quick counter was finished decisively by the forward after a clever interchange with McBurnie.
And that was the goal which sealed it - a brave, determined effort by our boys, including the final few minutes in which they played a man light due to Tennai Watson's injury, but ultimately their efforts were unrewarded.
Full-time: Swansea City U23 2-0 Reading U23
Swansea City U23: Zabret, Reid, Roberts, Maric, Davies, Rodon, James, Fulton, McBurnie, Byers, King.
Unused subs: Thomas, Lewis, Biabi, Garrick, Evans.
Goals: King (44, 81).
Reading U23: Legg, Watson, Richards, Osho (Andresson 84), Dickie, East, Frost (Smith 86), Rinomhota, Barrett (Sheppard 74), Meite, Novakovich.
Unused subs: Driscoll, Holsgrove.