Reading’s Under-23s were narrowly defeated by Manchester United at Madejski Stadium on Sunday, as Angel Gomes’ penalty midway through the second half was enough to separate the teams.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, a game of few chances was decided from the spot as the Red Devils’ forward – who has two appearances for the senior team – tucked away from 12 yards.
It was a result that sent the visitors top of the Premier League 2 Division 2, leapfrogging the Royals to put them top of a concertinaed pack.
David Dodds, deputising for Scott Marshall, named several players well underneath the Under-23 threshold; Oliver Pendlebury manned the midfield at just 16 years of age, while 15-year-old goalkeeper Coniah Boyce-Clarke was handed his first Premier League 2 start.
And the young stopper showed his agility early on when Dutch Under-21 international Tahith Chong skipped in off the right and fizzed a left-footed effort on target – the young stopper palmed away strongly.
Adrian Popa and Josh Barrett each had opportunities of similar ilk to open the scoring for the Royals, receiving crosses from the right on the far side, but Popa’s was wild and Barrett’s forced a strong stop from Matej Kovar.
Between those chances, Callum Harriott fizzed one goalwards from the right byline but the angle was against him and tipped around the post.
And then the goalkeeper made a stunning stop to deny Ben House his 11th goal of the season – he stole a march to meet Jamal Balogun’s cross, but the goalkeeper was tipped onto the crossbar.
Instead it was United, who had offered little going forward throughout, who took the lead midway through the second period. Substitute Nishan Burkart burst into the area and looked to have been edged out by centre-half Andre Burley, but the referee deemed it worthy of a penalty. Up stepped Gomes, and his firm strike was just past the fingertips of Boyce-Clarke for an opener.
Reading pushed to get level but Popa’s effort was wild as he cut off the left flank, and then sub Ramarni Medford-Smith was wayard with his header as the ball came in from the left.
Ultimately a bit of a frustrating day for the Royals as the game ended narrowly in United’s favour.
Full-time: Reading U23 0-1 Manchester United U23
Reading U23: Boyce-Clarke, Balogun, Richards (Medford-Smith 60), Odimayo, Burley, East, Pendlebury (Olise 71), Popa, Harriott, Barrett, House.
Unused subs: Hillson, Nolan, Howe.
Manchester United U23: Kovar, O’Connor, Warren (Tanner 57), Poole, Williams, Whelan, Hamilton, Gomes (Barlow 81), Chong, Dearnley (Burkart 59), Bohui.
Unused subs: Sang, Woolston.