A quite remarkable fixture at Park View Road ended 4-3 in favour of our Under-18s in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup against Charlton Athletic, securing passage to the next stage and setting up a visit to Colchester United.
The goal-strewn game at Welling United’s ground looked like it was going to fall the Addicks’ way, until Jordan Holsgrove stabbed in an equaliser with virtually the final kick of normal time, forcing the fixture into an added 30 minutes.
And during that time Danny Loader managed to find the game’s winning goal – that was before he was dismissed for a second yellow, while fellow Royal Tom Holmes was also shown a red card, as was Charlton man Daniel Birch. Ben Dempsey was injured for the Addicks with all subs made, meaning each team finished the fixture with nine men on the field.
It was a fixture that included every conceivable piece of drama – all of which conspired to secure the Royals’ passage to the next stage, where they will meet the U’s... they were 2-0 winners against MK Dons on the same evening, and the victorious side will take a place in the sixth round.
Loader had twice gone close to opening the scoring for the Royals in the early sparring – goalkeeper Ed Harvey was equal to his first effort, before slicing an effort wide after latching onto a direct ball forward.
But it was hosts Charlton who got their noses in front through Albie Morgan, who converted a spot-kick with quarter of an hour gone. Jamal Balogun was the offender, felling Jordan Zemura in the area as he raced towards goal, and the Addicks were handed a penalty.
They held their lead until first-half stoppage time, when Holsgrove entered the area and fired hard and low into the bottom corner – levelling the scores and giving both managers reasons to rethink their half-time team-talks.
Charlton were able to open up a two-goal lead within 20 minutes of the restart, however, with two goals in similar circumstances. On both occasions they came from corners, which had been won through terrific saves by Adam Desbois in the Reading goal, but Samuel Nwosu and Alex Willis each scrambled in the resulting set-pieces in turn.
The Royals refused to lie down – by the midpoint of the second period they were back within a goal. Samuel Faniyan, scorer at Madejski Stadium in our third-round tie with Millwall, notched another with a bulleted header as he latched onto a free-kick by Holsgrove.
And, with Charlton trying to hold onto their slim lead in the final throes of the game, a ball in from the right was steered into the back of the net by Holsgrove… 3-3 the score, in the 94th minute!
Charlton would have to contest the extra 30 minutes a man light, as Birch earned a second yellow for a late tackle as the referee sounded the full-time whistle.
That numerical advantage came to fruition in the first period of extra time, when Loader danced around a couple of challenges and arrowed in what would prove to be the winner, via the post.
Dempsey’s injury for Charlton meant that they had to soldier on with just eight outfield players – although the Royals also lost Tom Holmes and Loader before the game’s completion, with both getting early dismissals for second bookable offences.
Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu was the crossbar’s width from taking the game to penalties as he headed against the woodwork in the late stages… after two hours of football, it was Reading who left Welling victorious!
And now it’s Colchester who stand between the Royals and a place in the quarter-final… we’ll announce the date, time and venue of the fixture in due course.
After extra-time: Charlton Athletic U18 3-4 Reading U18
Charlton Athletic U18: Harvey, Birch, Zemura, Nwosu, Kirunda, Dempsey, Sarpong-Wiredu, Sarmiento (Carey 76), Doughty (French 90), Morgan, Willis (Isiaka 86).
Unused subs: Osaghae, Godding.
Reading U18: Debois, Elva-Foutaine (Wilson 64), Odimayo, Holmes, Balogun, Buchanan, Faniyan, Coleman, Loader, Holsgrove, Nolan.
Unused subs: Rosario, Simmo, Lawrence, Nevers.