While our first team squad have been making great strides in the Sky Bet Championship, our next generation are also going through the motions to try to make the step up to senior team football.
Our Under-23s are competing in Premier League 2 Division 2 against talented opposition from up and down the country, while our Under-18s are mixing it up with the best players of their age group from this end of the land in the U18 Premier League (South).
Both age groups have had their ups and downs already with just five games gone… here’s a round-up of how things are bearing out so far.
Suffice it to say, it was a tough opening week for our Under-23s, who fell to defeats away at Norwich City on Monday and then at home against Fulham on the following Friday.
A number of players from the U18 side had run-outs in those two fixtures – good experience from some harsh lessons, as a Canaries side which featured Josip Drmic – Swiss international striker (and veteran of World Cup campaigns in Brazil and Russia) – were 3-0 victors in Norfolk. At the end of the week, two goals apiece from Sylvester Jasper and Fabio Carvalho gave the Cottagers a 4-0 win at Bearwood Park.
But our first win of the season came the following week away at Aston Villa; Augustus McGiff’s opener had been cancelled out when 17-year-old defender Nelson Abbey inadvertently turned past Coniah Boyce-Clarke in the Royals goal, but within two minutes Oli Pendlebury had the Royals ahead again by firing in what proved to be the winning goal from the penalty spot by making it 2-1.
The Royals were back in the Midlands a week later and Femi Azeez – the day before his first involvement in a first-team squad – put Reading ahead against West Bromwich Albion with a stunning solo goal at The Hawthorns. But Owen Windsor levelled for the home club just after the hour to earn a 1-1 draw.
10 days ago, Reading claimed their second win of the season with a 3-2 triumph over Leeds United at Bearwood Park. Sam Smith, who completed his paperwork on a loan move to Tranmere later that day, opened the scoring in the first half, but the Whites levelled before the break. Quick goals from Nahum Melvin-Lambert and Ryan East put Reading into a commanding position – but we had to hold on when Josh Galloway grabbed one back with 20 minutes to play. And hold on we did.
Next up is a trip to Stoke City this evening – some Monday-night football at Clayton Wood Training Ground.
There has been a theme in our U18s’ games so far this season… goals! The nets have rippled a total of 30 times in our five games so far – attacks have been on top in all of our matches to date.
The tone was set on the opening day when we visited West Bromwich Albion – we led, then trailed twice, and in the 89th minute Ben Purcell hit a leveller to make it 3-3.
The following week was equally dramatic when Jahmari Clarke’s early goal looked like it could be the winner… until two goals in two minutes for Aston Villa turned the game on its head with 10 minutes to go. The Villans added to their tally to make it 3-1 in stoppage time.
Our first win of the campaign came at Bearwood against Leicester City… thanks in part to a brace by Melvin-Lambert, two and a half weeks before his 18th birthday. Having featured twice from the bench for our first team and a few times for our U23s, the striker opened the scoring on the cusp of half-time. Will Russ levelled for the Foxes; Clarke put Reading ahead again. Kian Pennant equalised for a second time, but Melvin-Lambert’s second proved to be decisive in a 3-2 triumph.
Chelsea proved to be too hot to handle for our young Royals when they visited Bearwood Park; when Harvey Maunder hit the net for Reading before the break, Chelsea were already three in front. The visitors added a further two after the break, before Malachi Talent-Aryeetey wrapped up the scoring in a 5-2 defeat.
Most recently, a frenetic point earned away at Tottenham Hotspur. Maunder scored twice either side of a Jordan Hamilton goal to go three ahead; Dane Scarlett pegged back but the Royals instantly replied through a Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan penalty. But Spurs grabbed three back to go level at 4-4 – that was the final score, as goalie Matt Rowley preserved a point for Reading with a stoppage-time penalty save in a breathless encounter.