Sam Smith netted two first half goals for the Royals’ Under-23s, but it only resulted in a single point as visiting Norwich earned a draw late on.
The striker headed Reading ahead after just three minutes, and doubled the lead in similar fashion just before half an hour had passed.
But Savvas Mourgos hit a stunning free-kick shortly before the interval, meaning that Todd Cantwell’s 89th-minute spot-kick – in which Axel Andresson earned a second yellow for a mistimed tackle – tied up the scores.
The game was only three minutes old when Smith opened the scoring – after a few forward forays, he caught out goalkeeper Aston Oxborough with an early header, glancing a looper over the stopper to put Reading ahead.
A low cross from the right by Pierre Xavier Fonkeu almost resulted in a leveler before 10 minutes were played, but the ball squirmed off Cantwell’s studs and safely wide of George Legg’s net.
The Royals’ next opportunity came on the counter – a dominant headed clearance by centre-half Axel Andresson sprung a break from the Canaries’ corner. Danny Loader sought the run of Ramarni Medford-Smith, but the visitors got bodies back quickly to cover.
Within a minute, around the midpoint of the first period, both sides had penalty appeals turned down. Tristan Abrahams appealed optimistically as Gabriel Osho nipped the ball away for a corner at one end, and on the break at the other end of the field, Danny Loader claimed with greatly legitimacy that he was clattered by Oluwarotimi Odusina as Smith headed into the danger zone.
Probing for an equaliser, Norwich had chances through Adam Phillips, whose powerful free-kick struck Jake Sheppard in the wall, and Mourgos, who couldn’t trouble Legg as he fired wide from outside the area.
Instead the second goal went Reading’s way – Smith again the scorer. Josh Barrett set Sheppard away in space on the right, and spotting the striker running into acres of space, he picked out Smith to head goalwards. Oxborough got a palm to it… but not enough to prevent the net from rippling.
But Norwich had a goal back before the break – an unstoppable effort from midfielder Mourgos. The Canaries won a foul 22 yards out, and the Greek midfielder bent his free-kick into the net via the woodwork; no chance for the goalkeeper.
Left-back Medford-Smith created two good openings within two minutes shortly after the restart. Firstly, wriggling between Emmerson Sambu and Mourgos on the byline before seeing a cross cut out, and then being released by Andresson and trying to find Loader, only for a defender to arrive first.
Cantwell had a chance to square things up again when afforded a bit of space at the edge of the area, only for his powerful effort to arrow straight at Legg. At the other end, Smith won a free-kick outside the area which Barrett struck cleanly – goalie Oxborough clasped at the second attempt.
Mourgos was a whisker away from grabbing his and the Canaries’ second in spectacular fashion. Similar circumstances – a whipped, dipping left-footed free-kick from range, striking the woodwork… this time it was the outside of the Legg’s post rather than the inside, and the one-goal margin remained intact.
Norwich began to leave gaps as they sought an equaliser – that allowed Medford-Smith to claim the ball on the left byline and almost pick out the head of sub Ben House… it was just flighted too high.
And with two minutes remaining, the visitors finally stole level. Andresson committed to a tackle in the box, but mistimed his challenge on Glenn Middleton. The challenge resulted in a second yellow for the Icelander, and allowed Cantwell to send Legg the wrong way and tie things up from 12 yards.
The visitors might have even won it when Abrahams looked to slalom through the defence – Sheppard just about got back in time to hold up play. A lively affair ended all square.
Full-time: Reading U23 2-2 Norwich City U23
Reading U23: Legg, Holmes, Medford-Smith, Osho, Andresson, East, Sheppard, Frost, Barrett (House 74), Loader (Holsgrove 74), Smith.~
Unused subs: Driscoll, Howe, Shokunbi.
Norwich City U23: Oxborough, Sambu, Aarons, Phillips, Martin, Odusina, Cantwell, Mourgos, Abrahams, Fonkeu (Higgs 64), Aransibia (Middleton 54).
Unused subs: Hallett, Wallis, Payne.