Reading's U23s earned three valuable points in the Premier League 2 with a solid 2-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion.
- Joseph Mendes and Callum Harriott play for the first time following long injury lay-offs
- East and Loader go close for the Royals in the first half
- Jake Sheppard scores with cross dipping into the net
- Tyler Frost adds emphatic second for the Royals
The teams took time to work each other out in the opening exchanges at Adams Park, with a heavy rain shower before the match leaving a slippery surface and making it tricky to keep possession.
Joseph Mendes, getting his first minutes following an injury that has kept him out since September, got the first sight of goal after latching onto Ryan East's ball, firing left-footed and over the bar.
The Baggies had a chance of their own soon after, with Callum Morton getting forward into the Royals' box, with astute defending from Akinwale Odimayo seeing him block the danger from six yards.
Danny Loader, playing in a free role in the Royals' attack, picked up the ball in his own half before powering through midfield and within shooting range. The 17-year-old struck it sweetly from 20 yards but it was always rising above the crossbar.
Harriott was withdrawn after the half-hour mark, as he gained his first minutes for over a year and he continues his recovery.
The Royals got forward and strung some tidy passes together before playing to East on the edge of the box. He controlled the ball and lined up well, shooting powerfully but just half-a-yard wide in the best chance of the half.
Mendes also went close for the Royals before the break, getting on the end of a Jake Sheppard cross but goalkeeper Alex Palmer narrowed the angle well to make the save.
Half time | Reading U23 0-0 West Brom U23
Mendes was substituted at the break, with youngster Jack Nolan taking his place as the Royals re-shuffled their formation for the second period.
The Royals took the lead near the hour mark, with Sheppard teeing up a cross to the far post and the ball looping over the goalkeeper into the net. Nolan had been running onto the effort at the back post, but he didn't appear to get there in time to claim the goal as his own.
Jordan Holsgrove almost doubled the lead soon after, with a clever free-kick bending around the wall but into the side netting. Sheppard then had a close-range effort saved before Tyler Frost's follow-up was deflected away for a corner.
Alex Bradley lined up a free-kick for the visitors with 15 minutes remaining, his shot dipping well but Liam Driscoll saw it over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
Reading earned their two-goal cushion through a fine solo effort from Frost. Ramarni Medford-Smith played forward for Loader in midfield, who laid off for Frost to break forward into space. He got himself to within sight of goal and let fly from outside the area, burying his shot into the bottom left corner.
The Royals could have had a third, with Sheppard shooting from the edge of the box with the outside of his boot. His shot looked destined for the top corner only for a fantastic save from Palmer to tip it onto the crossbar.
In all, a good night's work from the young Royals, as they keep up the chase for promotion towards the end of the season.
Full time | Reading U23 2-0 West Brom U23
Reading U23: Driscoll, Sheppard, Osho (c), Odimayo, Medford-Smith, East, Loader, Holsgrove, Mendes (Nolan 46), Frost, Harriott (Rollinson 32).
Subs: Green, Rosario, Shokunbi.
Goals: Sheppard 58, Frost 77
Yellow: Harriott, Odimayo, Sheppard
West Bromwich Albion U23: Palmer, Meredith, Harmon (Pierce 71), Ferguson, Martinez, McCourt, Bradley, Harper, Morton, Leko, Clayton-Phillips (Brown 80).
Subs: Pryzbek, Azaz, Wilding.
Referee: Mr G Parsons