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Report | Ten-man U23s reach final in dramatic shootout

Young Royals recover to beat Maidenhead on penalties

19 March 2019

Reading's Under-23s made it through to the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Final in dramatic circumstances - beating the Magpies 4-3 in a tense penalty shootout.

Myles Roberts had been sent off for the Royals after just 15 minutes, and the National League side went ahead through Mike Fondop close to half time.

Substitute, Teddy Howe levelled it eight minutes from time with a fine lobbed finish, before the Royals prevailed on penalties.

It was a worthwhile and tough test for our youngsters, playing against senior professionals at York Road for a place in the Berks & Bucks FA Senior Cup Final. 

And it was a feisty start between the teams at the home of the Magpies, with strong early tackles going in as the National League side looked to make their physical advantage felt on the pitch - but the young Royals gave as good as they got on that front.

Herson Alves floated an early free-kick into the box as the hosts tried to snatch an early lead. Ayo Obileye won the header in the area, but it didn't trouble Myles Roberts as it went harmlessly wide.

The Royals then broke up the other end with Josh Barrett feeding Cameron Green on the left. He then tried to play in Tyler Frost in the box, but Nick Hamann was quick off his line to smother.


But soon afterwards, disaster for Reading. Maidenhead broke quickly and fed through Mike Fondop, Roberts couldn't quite beat him to the ball and fouled the striker on the edge of the box - denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, according to the referee. Coniah Boyce-Clark was quickly subbed on in place of Oli Pendlebury, as the Royals had 75 minutes to play with 10 men.

Scott Marshall's side had already set up with a five-man defence, but they had it all to do if they were to get through to the final of the competition.

And they had a scare, too, when Ryan Upward crashed a low volley off the post, before the Royals could scramble clear.

Eventually, the pressure told and Maidenhead made their man advantage count. Mike Fondop was played clean through on goal after a defence-splitting ball. Boyce-Clark came out to narrow the angle, but Mike Fondop beat him to it, chipping over the young goalkeeper and giving the hosts the lead at the break.

Half time | Maidenhead United 1-0 Reading U23

Despite being a player down in Maidenhead, the Royals kept themselves right in the thick of it as the second half started, although chances were, unsurprisingly, at a premium as the hosts pressed for every ball.

And on the hour mark, Marshall brought off McIntyre and Coleman, with Ramarni Medford-Smith and Teddy Howe coming on in their place. Both are normally full-backs for our Under-23s, but were deployed in more advanced roles as they hoped to bring pace into the game.

The hosts soon had the ball in the back of the net again when a low ball was turned in by Ryan Bird - but the flag was already up on the far side against the Maidenhead striker.

Marshall's men were clinging on in there, with the deficit still just the one goal with 20 minutes to go in this Semi-Final tie.


And Reading had a brilliant chance to go level when they overloaded the Maidenhead defence on the left flank. Barrett squared to Cameron Green to the left of the box, doing brilliantly to chip the goalkeeper, but it floated narrowly wide of the post in the Royals' best chance of the second half.

But it wasn't long before Reading had the equaliser, in fine style too. Jamal Balogun surged through the middle laid off to Howe, who spotted the goalkeeper off his line and deftly lobbed him from 20 yards. Game very much on at York Road.

Reading held the ascendency as stoppage time approached, with the tannoy announcing the game would go straight to penalties in the event of a draw - and that's how it ended up.

Both teams gathered on the halfway line, gathered their thoughts, chose their takers and got set to do battle from the spot.

But it was a bad start to the shootout for the Royals, with Hamann guessing correctly to deny Green with Reading's first spot kick.

Boyce-Clark, however, held on superbly to a low penalty from Harold Odametey, before Tom Holmes dispatched his spot kick confidently to level it up.

Seth Twumasi had the chance to put the hosts ahead again in the shootout, before dragging his shot wide. Tyler Frost made no such mistake from his penalty - advantage Reading.

Nana Owusu, formerly a Reading player, put on the pressure by slotting in Maidenhead's fifth penalty. Barrett, however, held his nerve to slot in and give Reading a fantastic opportunity to play in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Final. A dramatic and entertaining evening at York Road.

Full time | Maidenhead United 1-1 Reading U23 (Reading U23 win 4-3 on penalties)

Maidenhead United: Hamann, Clerima, Steer, Odametey, Obileye, Massey (c), Owusu, Upward, Bird (Farren 76), Fondop, Alves.
Subs: Pentney, Dirkin, Gardner, Wayborn.
Goals: Fondop 41
Yellow: Upward, Odametey

Reading U23: Roberts, Balogun, Green, Odimayo, Holmes (c), McIntyre (Medford-Smith 62), Pendlebury (Boyce-Clark 15), Omolabi, Coleman (Howe 62), Frost, Barrett.
Subs: Nditi, Nevers.
Goals: Howe 82
Yellow: Coleman, Holmes, Green
Red: Roberts

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