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Donaldson on Youth Cup exit

U18 coach reflects on breathless encounter against Palace

13 December 2019

Michael Donaldson spoke of the need for Reading's Under-18s to learn and grow from their experience of playing at Madejski Stadium on Thursday night, exiting the FA Youth Cup after a 4-2 defeat against Crystal Palace.

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Donaldson and Mikele Leigertwood's side took to the turf in RG2 for their Third Round tie against a Palace side who started quickly and raced into a two-goal lead in the first half.

Fine finishes from Lynford Sackey and Claudio Osorio levelled proceedings at the Madejski, but the visitors struck twice in quick succession early in the second period to put the Eagles through to the Fourth Round.

It was a battling performance from the young Royals, with coach Donaldson hoping to take the positives from the performance on the night.

"We were under no illusions that it was going to be a difficult game today," he said after the match. "They carried some strong threats and, unfortunately, we didn't deal with them as well as we hoped. We wish them all the best, and we're obviously a bit disappointed that we didn't get the result we wanted.

"There's a lot to learn from today. There's such a build-up for the Youth Cup and the players want to do as well as they can, the staff show what we've been working on too.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't the result but we did learn a hell of a lot. And we're hoping now to ensure we push on, learn from it and keep growing."

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Reading's Under-18s had made a habit of dramatic comebacks of late, overturning three-goal deficits twice in the group stages of the U18 Premier League Cup, as well as coming back from 2-0 down to beat Donaldson's former club, Tottenham at the weekend.

"The character has been quite a nice theme of late," Donaldson continued. "We've found ourselves two or three goals down, we thought it was another one where we were going to be in that position again and hopefully go on to win.

"But, ultimately, we can't keep putting ourselves in that position and, on this stage, you get found out a little bit more and it hurts a bit, but it's another opportunity to learn why we're in that position and how we stop ourselves getting in that position."

Despite their exit from the FA Youth Cup, our U18s have already booked their place in the Quarter-Finals of the U18 Premier League Cup after winning their group - with the young Royals set to face Everton at home in January.

Donaldson, who coaches the squad in partnership with former Royal Leigertwood, says there is still plenty for the side to look forward to in the second half of the season.

"The boys have been doing well, we've had a lot of success in the U23s - we've got to keep pushing our players into that.

"We've got the Quarter-Final to look forward to as well, it's another case for us to go and showcase and, hopefully, get ourselves in the Semi-Final.

"Otherwise, we'll look to climb the league, do as well as we can and end strongly. We'll rest and recuperate, get through Christmas and really look to go again in January."

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