Royals picked off in late stagesReading’s Under-18s fell to defeat at the hands of visiting Manchester United on Saturday, who ultimately triumphed by a 5-2 scoreline at Hogwood.
The scoreline did something of a disservice to what was an evenly-contested fixture; the visitors netted twice in the late stages to capitalise on a Royals side that was pushing for an equaliser.
Callum Gribbin struck first for United, before Aidan Barlow converted a penalty after the break to double their lead. Jazz Wallace halved the deficit for the Royals – again from the spot – but a peach of a hit by Ethan Hamilton re-established the Red Devils’ two-goal advantage.
The Royals were back within a goal with two minutes of normal time remaining when Akinwale Odimayo followed in to net a rebound, but a pair of late goals by Barlow and Zachary Dearnley put some gloss on United’s scoreline.
Under-18 manager David Dodds said: “United had a strong team out – there were around seven of the players who would play in the Youth Cup for them, as well as a winger who has been around their first team. On the other hand we were a bit young, but in that respect it was good experience.
“They started the game strongly and were strong for the first few minutes, but then we got into a pattern and did okay. We got into a few good situations, and on another day we would have turned those into chances and then it could have been a lot different and perhaps got a result.
“We gave a few fouls away on the edge of our box and they were dangerous from set plays, but from free play they didn’t really have an awful lot in the first half. They scored their opener from just outside the box, and we had a couple of chances at the other end.
“It was 1-0 at the break and in the second half we had to play without a centre-forward as Ben House only played the first half, so that he could be involved for the Under-23s on the Sunday. We tried to keep the wingers high, but it was a bit unbalanced at times.
“They scored a bit of a dubious penalty to go two up, although we got one similar back as Joe Wilson got in down the side and got taken down, so Jazz Wallace got us back in the game from our penalty. But they scored a good goal from outside the box which gave Liam Driscoll no chance to go 3-1 up… after that it looked like the game was just going to peter out as they were slowing it down.
“We had a few good bits of play, and then with a few minutes left Jack Nolan cut in and hit a right-footed shot off the underside of the bar, which Akinwale Odimayo followed in with a side-foot finish. I think the lads got a bit excited at point because we were back within a goal – and they went a bit gung-ho, rather than carrying on playing the way we had been.
“We had about six minutes left to get that equaliser so we didn’t need to go gung-ho – and consequently they had a breakaway and scored from that, and added a similar one soon after when the spirits were down.
“So hopefully they’ll learn from that – they can’t just go full pelt when they get back into the game. Against a ‘normal’ youth team you might get away with it, but against a strong Manchester United team you can get burnt.
“But that’s why it’s so good to play at this level. It highlights the things you do well and the things you do poorly, as you’ll get punished if you’re slightly off. So it’s a learning experience for everyone.”
Full-time: Reading U18 2-5 Manchester United U18
Reading U18: Driscoll, Howe (Wilson 62), Green, Odimayo, Philby, Shokunbi, Sparta, Rollinson, Nolan, Wallace, House (Coleman HT).
Unused subs: Desbois, Buchanan, Burley.
Manchester United U18: Richardson, Warren, Dunne, Hamilton, Gribbin, Dearnley, Kenyon, Whelan, Barlow, Bohui, Tanner.
Unused subs: Fojticek, Barrett, Makela, Diedrick-Roberts.