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"We stuck at it and saw it out" - Marshall on strong U23 victory

U23 manager praises Reading resolve in 3-1 win at Madejski Stadium

24 April 2018

Scott Marshall was pleased to see his Under-23 side secure their place in the Premier League 2 play-off semi-finals with a 3-1 win against Stoke City on Monday night.

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A hat-trick from Sam Smith earned the young Royals a one-legged tie against Aston Villa in the coming days, with a place in the final at stake to gain a return to the top tier of U23 football.

Following a disappointing defeat against Newcastle United last week - with the play-offs in sight for the Royals - Marshall said he was happy with the fight the team showed to get over the line on the final day.

"I thought at the end of the first half, we deserved to go in 2-0 up, it probably should have been a couple more actually," he said.

"In the second half, it was a little bit sticky. They got a goal back from a set-piece, which can happen, but I thought we stuck at it and sorted it out pretty well, comfortably enough in the end - so it was good.

"After last week, 'missing out' on the play-offs so to speak, expecting to get the win there and get the job done. It built a little bit of pressure on them.

"There's a bit of expectation so after losing that goal, 2-1 is always an awkward score, I thought we did pretty well with it. They'll be a lot better for that experience."

Marshall praised Smith's impact on proceedings, with the young striker having made the step up to the first team on several occasions this season.

"Sam's been among the senior group for quite a period of time and training with them day-in-day-out," Marshall continued. "He's going to get better in that environment, I thought he took his goals well, he probably could have had a couple more as well."

Another positive of the evening was seeing young full-back, Tennai Watson, complete 90 minutes for the first time this season after a frustrating long-term injury.

Marshall was complimentary about Watson's contribution as well, adding: "He looked a threat, especially in the first half.

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"With Tennai getting 90 minutes under his belt after some really tough things happening to him over the last year or so, we're delighted to get to this step. Hopefully we can keep him pushing on."

Thoughts then turned to the challenge that awaits the Royals against Aston Villa in the play-off semi-final.

The Royals took victory in the home fixture in November, but lost the reverse in the Midlands - so it's certain to be a competitive affair when the sides meet.

A brace from Josh Barrett, now on loan at Coventry City, helped the Royals to a 3-2 victory over Villa's U23s at Madejski Stadium back in October.

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"I think all the games have been pretty competitive in this division and Villa have been pushing (league winners) Blackburn all the way throughout the season.

"I know Kevin MacDonald there is a very competitive guy and he likes his lads to be competitive, so it'll be a good game up there. I'm looking forward to it!"

Our U23s will take on Villa on Tuesday 1st May, with kick-off at 7pm at Villa Park.

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