Youngsters’ season comes to an endReading’s Academy side finished fifth in the Merit Group in the Under-18 Premier League after being defeated 3-0 in their final fixture to Chelsea, who were also crowned champions.
The Royals faced a near-full-strength Blues side at Cobham, where David Dodds’ boys were without Jazz Wallace and Ben House after a bout of illness, and Danny Loader was involved internationally for England’s Under-17s.
Nevertheless Reading kept the game level for almost an hour, and in fact had a number of opportunities to take a lead which they couldn’t quite convert.
And instead, three goals within the space of less than 20 minutes for the host proved decisive – the first of which while the Royals were temporarily down to 10 men – as Conor Gallagher, Harvey St Clair and Mason Mount each found the net.
Reading’s Under-18 manager David Dodds said: “We had a little bit of a drama during the week – three lads went sick, and with the play-offs coming up for the first team we wanted them to stay away from the club in case they passed it round. So it was a very inexperienced front-line with a couple of Under-16s.
“So we changed our shape a little bit to go three at the backs and use a couple of wing-backs, and playing with a compact midfield with the view of playing on the counter attack. We started the game off very well and restricted them to a couple of crosses.
“Then we had a couple of really good chances. Joel Rollinson won a free-kick right on the edge of their box and that must have been a matter of inches from being a penalty – he took the free-kick and it went narrowly over the bar.
“Just after half-time we had a great chance from a corner when Ethan Coleman made a great header and their goalkeeper made a fantastic save. Their coach said afterwards that if we had taken one of those chances it would have been a frustrating time for them.
“Harry Philby got a little knee injury and when we were trying to get the sub on, it was sod’s law that they were able to get a cross in and they took the chance well, into the top corner.
“We did have another chance, but they started to control the game more after that. It was ironic that Tom Holmes, who was one of the best players on the pitch on the night, just over-indulged a little bit as he was playing out and they nicked the ball away on the edge of the area and finished it off, which killed the game a little bit.
“We conceded three goals, but they were ruthless. When they got their chances, they really took them with both hands. We had a couple of little situations like that which we weren’t able to maximise.
“There was no dropping of heads. I was pleased with the attitude and the way they played through the thirds.”
Full-time: Chelsea U18 3-0 Reading U18
Chelsea U18: Cumming, Colley, Chalobah, Grant (St Clair 62), Sterling, McCormick, Gallagher, Dasilva, Ugbo (Taylor-Crossdale HT), Maddox (Lamptey 70), Mount.
Unused subs: Wakely, Thompson.
Reading U18: Driscoll, Howe, Medford-Smith, Odimayo, Holmes, Philby (Green 57), Coleman, Rollinson (Sparta 70), Holsgrove, Nolan, Moore (Buchanan 84).
Unused subs: Desbois, Wilson.