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Match Reports

Pre-season | AFC Wimbledon 4-2 Royals

Popa and Smith find the net as Royals get real work out in oppressive London heat

7 July 2018

22 men got another 45 minutes under their belts in the searing heat this afternoon but the Royals were defeated by an impressive AFC Wimbledon side who are gearing up for League One in good shape.

  • Wimbledon score two late first half goals through clsoe range finishes from Appiah and Piggott
  • Reading restore parity with two goals before the hour mark - Adrian Popa and Sam Smith with headed finishes.
  • The hosts claim victory with two late goals, sweet strikes from Kaja and Critchlow.

Omar Richards and John O'Shea were getting their first pre-season minutes under their belts, but the hosts earned the first chance of the game but squandered it with a free header that floated just high and wide of the goalmouth.

But at the other end, Sone Aluko tried his luck, dragging a left-footed shot just wide of the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.

John O'Shea, starting in Reading colours for the first time since signing earlier this summer, produced a good header back to Mannone under pressure from Appiah. And Mannone comfortably gathered in a header from Deje Oshilaja as he got on the end of an inswinging set piece with a quarter of an hour played.

Liam Kelly took aim with 20 minutes played, but he couldn't direct it on target from 25 yards out - and the game was goalless as the two teams enjoyed a well-earned drinks break at the mid-point in the first half.

Upon the restart, the Dons looked dangerous and it took a fine low save from Mannone to deny Neal Ardley's men the opener. Then a well-struck free kick from Joe Piggott whistled just wide of the top left corner.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining, the home side took the lead. An inswinging corner from the right was headed down and former Royals loanee Kwesi Appiah reacted fastest to hook the loose ball home from close range.

Appiah raced onto a nice throughball soon after and bore down on Mannone but blazed the ball high and wide of the goal.

Before the half-time whistle could sound, Wimbledon had a second though. A good downward header was saved by Mannone low to his left, but the ball dopped kindly in the six yard box for Piggott who passed home into an empty net.

A superb point blank range dave from Mannone denied the hosts a third before the break, then Meite raced clear, jinked past the onrushing keeper but was dispossesed before he could stab the ball towards an empty net.

Half-time: AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Reading

Eleven changes at the break and Reading began the second half with more energy and at a high tempo, and it soon paid off. 

A good cross from Tyler Blackett on the left picked out Adrian Popa in the middle and the Romanian forward thundered a bullet header past the Dons keeper to half the deficit.

It was nearly 2-2 moments later. Again Blackett found himself in an advanced position, he beat his man and scurried inside along the byline, cut a pass back to Mo Barrow who drilled a first time effort just wide of the right post.

The scores were level just before the hour mark; a testing cross from the right was spilled by the goalkeeper and Sam Smith was in the right place at the right time to head home from 10 yards out - an acrobatic attempt at a goalline clearance failed to prevent our Academy graduate levelling.

Reading pressed for the winner, but the searing heat took its toll on a Royals squad who have been training very hard at Hogwood over the course of the last fortnight. And Wimbledon retook the lead with a quarter of an hour remaining - a good cross from the right was met by Egil Kaja who sweetly arrowed a first time effort past Jaakkola from the edge of the area.

Smith came close to restoring parity on a couple of occasions - he had a shot on the turn charged down on the edge of the box, then he nearly got his head to a Barrow cross from the left.

But Wimbledon added a fourth with a fine strike from Kane Critchlow and although a downward header from Liam Moore was brilliantly saved by the Dons stopper - who more than atoned for his mistake earlier in the half - the Dons claimed pre-season victory.

Full-time: AFC Wimbledon 4-2 Reading

AFC Wimbledon: King, Sibbick, Meades, Nightingale, Oshilaja, Soares, Egan, Pinnock, Barcham, Piggott, Appiah.

Reading first half XI
: Mannone, Gunter, Richards, Ilori, O'Shea, Kelly, Bacuna, Aluko, Harriott, Swift, Meite.

Reading second half XI: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Blackett, Moore, Meyler, Edwards, Evans, Clement, Popa, Barrow, Smith.

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