The Royals’ Under-23s came from two goals down to win a friendly fixture against Brentford B at Hogwood Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Trailing by two at the break, second-half goals by Ethan Coleman, Adam Liddle and then sub Josh Barrett completed the turnaround for the Royals youngsters as a dominant second half resulted in a win.
The game also saw 78 minutes of action for Garath McCleary, continuing his long-term rehabilitation towards full fitness, as well as 90 minutes for fellow first-teamers Andy Rinomhota and Pelle Clement.
In a high-tempo start, the Royals almost went ahead inside the first ten minutes as Clement’s round-the-corner ball for McCleary saw the winger get in down the right, but Liddle’s shot was well saved by goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson.
Instead it was the Bees who led early; a pass in the Royals was picked off, allowing Joe Hardy to tuck in from close range.
Changes followed at either end; Coleman’s half-volley was deflected over, before strong challenges in quick succession by Jamal Balogun and Andre Burley kept the scoreline within one.
But the Bees’ second came on the half-hour. Reece Cole, who had had a sighter with an earlier free-kick which cleared the bar, got his judgement spot-on this time around. Powerfully hit, it beat Liam Driscoll at full stretch.
Jack Nolan and Liddle both tried to attack McCleary’s cross from the right byline, but in a busy area the ball fell kindly for the goalkeeper, meaning that the Royals were facing an uphill task at the break.
But less than a minute after the restart, the Royals had halved the deficit – in emphatic fashion! After Clement’s smart run into the left channel, the ball was circulated to Coleman to fire in from the best part of 25 yards.
Liddle was getting into good areas inside the box, but wasn’t quite able to generate power when a low McCleary centre found him in the middle – the Jamaican had a flurry of crosses from the right byline.
However Liddle was able to get Reading back on terms, just before the hour. Clever pressing from Barrett, Cameron Green and Rinomhota saw the Brentford defence boxed in – and when Rinomhota won the ball cleanly in their box, it broke for Liddle to take a touch and stroke the ball into the top corner to level things up again.
Well on the front-foot, Reading pressed for a winner. Barrett came close when a strafing low ball found him onside, but the angle was too tight for him to be able to lift it past the goalkeeper an in – his shot found the side netting.
But it was indeed Barrett who grabbed the winner on 77 minutes – full-back Balogun, full of endeavour, got his head up to pick out Barrett’s run to the back post… nipping in ahead of his marker, he steered his header powerfully into the net.
Sub Ade Shokunbi almost added a fourth for the Royals – Clement put in a driving run, set Jazz Wallace up for a cross, and Barrett’s header back into the danger zone was turned against the far post by the midfielder.
But in the end, it was enough – and the Royals were winners in this entertaining friendly contest.
Full-time: Reading U23 3-2 Brentford B
Reading U23: Driscoll, Balogun, Green, Burley (Odimayo 78), Holmes, Coleman (Shokunbi 78), Rinomhota, Clement, McCleary (Wallace 78), Nolan (Barrett 54), Liddle.