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Report | Tom on target as U23s progress in PL Cup

Young Royals through to knockout phase of competition

8 February 2019

Reading's Under-23s made it nine games unbeaten in cup competition this season, after securing a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City on Friday afternoon.

Goals from Tom Holmes and Joel Rollinson had the Royals in front at half-time, before Odin Bailey struck twice for Blues to level matters on the day.

Nonetheless, this result sees Scott Marshall's side through to the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup with a game to spare in Group G, keeping their unbeaten record intact.

Reading started on the front foot in Solihull on Friday afternoon, with Adam Liddle quickly rising off the floor to shoot powerfully, with Zach Jeacock having to make a smart diving save to his left.

From a corner shortly afterwards, Reading had the lead. Jordan Holsgrove swung in a dangerous corner, and Tom Holmes rose above the crowd to head into the bottom corner.

Birmingham showed their attacking potential for the first time with almost 20 minutes on the clock, when Corey O'Keeffe sped along the right flank and got into a dangerous area. He floated a cross to the unmarked Josh Andrews in the area, who could only spurn his header wide.

A quickly-worked free-kick from Reading saw Ryan East lay off to Holsgrove, who danced past two Blues players and leathered a strike at goal, with Joe Redmond's head putting it behind for a corner.

The hosts enjoyed a spell of pressure afterwards, holding the ball well but unable to break Reading down - coming closest through the ball breaking to Ryan Burke on the edge of the box, lashing a shot across goal and wide.

The Royals broke at pace and nabbed the second with a classic counter-attack. The ball came forward at speed into the path of Joel Rollinson clean through on goal - keeping his composure and slotting under Jeacock with a well-taken finish.

Reading managed to keep Blues at arm's length for the remainder of the half, with chances at a premium and clinical finishing from the Royals leaving them two goals to the good at the interval.

Half-time | Birmingham City U23 0-2 Reading U23

Birmingham started the second half with a big task on their hands to try and peg back the Royals, introducing striker Odin Bailey at the interval to offer something different up front.

And it was the attacker who would offer Blues a route back into the game. The hosts got up into the box with a run from 15-year-old Jude Bellingham, who then laid off to Bailey six yards out, slotting calmly past Jökull Andrésson into the bottom corner to halve the arrears.

Just five minutes later, Birmingham found themselves level in the game. A scuffed clearance saw O'Keeffe able to test the on-rushing Andrésson. The goalkeeper blocked with his midriff but only into the path of Bailey 12 yards out. Defenders were chasing back on the line, but the striker lofted over them and in to equalise.

Reading still carried threats going forward, with Teddy Howe's cross from the right finding Michael Olise in the box. He leapy above the crowd of players and headed over Jeacock - but only onto the roof of the net as the game begun to open up.

Up the other end, Andrésson pulled off a strong stop at his near post as Bellingham ran clean through on goal, with an outstretched leg from the young goalkeeper parrying around the post.

Bellingham was involved again with 10 minutes left, as he poked it through to substitute, Kyle Hurst in the box. Andrésson saved again from point-blank range, unaware that the flag was already raised for offside.

Andrésson would make another crucial save as the clock ticked on towards the 90th minute. Bailey, on a hat-trick, took aim from 25 yards and struck low, with an awkward bounce in front of the goalkeeper increasing the difficulty of his diving save to his left, but he was able to keep the scores level.

Reading now go into the straight knockout stage of the competition, with the draw for the last 16 to be made in due course.

Full-time | Birmingham City U23 2-2 Reading U23

Birmingham City U23: Jeacock, Hutton, Burke, Stirk, Bajrami (c), Redmond, O'Keeffe, Boyd-Munce (Hurst 77), Andrews (Bailey HT), Bellingham, McCoy.
Subs: Luyambala, Baker, Forest.
Goals: Bailey 57, 62

Reading U23: Andrésson, Howe, Green, Odimayo, Holmes, East (c), Holsgrove (Lawless HT), Nolan (Pendlebury 81), Olise, Rollinson, Liddle.
Subs: Roberts, Balogun.
Goals: Holmes 12, Rollinson 34


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