A young Reading Under-23 squad were beaten 2-0 by Fulham on Friday afternoon in their final Premier League Cup group game – but it was merely academic, as the Royals had already secured passage to the knock-out stage as winners of Group G.
Harvey Elliott and Timmy Abraham were on the scoresheet for the hosts, who also qualified for the Round of 16 with the three points.
Fulham had the better of the first half and took the lead midway through, as Matt O’Riley’s defence-splitting ball found Elliott on the run, and he slotted past Myles Roberts to give the hosts a lead.
Reading could have forced an equaliser before the break, but Joel Rollinson was kept out by George Wickens just before the interval.
The young Royals side began to assert themselves much better after the interval and had chances to go level. Conor Lawless struck the bar, Michael Olise turned a cross narrowly over and Adam Liddle was forced wide to make his opportunity difficult.
With Reading looking ever-likelier to get back on terms, they were caught on the breakaway as Elliott burst upfield and squared for Abraham to tuck in the match-sealing goal. Reading still had late chances but the Whites kept hold of their clean sheet.
Nevertheless, the Royals now have a knock-out fixture to look forward to when the draw follows – as well as Premier League International Cup Quarter-Final fixture away to Manchester United, and a Berks & Bucks Senior FA Cup Semi-Final game at Maidenhead United.
Under-23 manager Scott Marshall said: “I think there were a lot of positives which came out of the game. A lot of very young lads from the Under-18s were involved so it was good for them to get a little bit more experience at this level, so there are plenty of things to be optimistic about.
“We’re through to the knock-out stages in this competition now, and we’re looking forward to the draw and seeing who we get. There are plenty of good games coming up, in the league and our cup competitions, so there are some good challenges ahead.
“The added pressure and intensity that comes with knock-out games is something that we’re looking forward to in the next few weeks – to give the lads more experiences. Already this season they have made a lot of big strides and a lot of people have progressed through the ranks quickly, and this is what it’s all about – making sure that they are ready to take their opportunities when they come.”
Full-time: Fulham U23 2-0 Reading U23
Fulham U23: Wickens, Drameh, Jenz, Opoku, Sessegnon; Francois, Käit, Harris, O'Riley, Elliott, Santos-Clase (Abraham 73).
Unused subs: Ashby-Hammond, Kelly, Asare.
Reading U23: Roberts, Balogun, Green (Bristow 81), Odimayo, Burley, Lawless, Omolabi (Moore 69), Pendlebury, Rollinson, Frost (Olise 53), Liddle.
Unused sub: Andresson.