After progressing to round three of the EFL Trophy last season, Reading’s Under 21s have crashed out at the group stage this time around after failing to win a game.
Following a draw with Colchester and a defeat to Southend, it was always going to be a big ask for the young Royals to qualify for the knockout stage going into tonight’s clash with Group C leaders Gillingham.
It was indeed too big a challenge and Scott Marshall’s side were beaten 7-5 by the League One side in an action packed clash at Priestfield.
Managerless Gillingham took the lead after just 12 seconds through Greg Cundle, and they were three up by the half hour mark as Conor Wilkinson and Scott Wagstaff finished from close range to seemingly put the result beyond doubt. Joel Rollinson pulled one back for Reading on 37 minutes, but the hosts restored their three goal advantage just a minute later, with Luke O’Neill’s 25-yard strike making it 4-1 at the break.
Scott Marshall must have given one hell of a team talk as his team were quick out of the blocks in the second half, with Adrian Popa netting on 49 minutes to reduce the deficit to two. 20 minutes later and Reading had incredibly pulled themselves level, as goals from Ramarni Medford-Smith and then Jake Sheppard completed a stunning comeback.
Yet unfortunately they couldn’t hold out for a draw or even grab a winner, as Gillingham took control of the game once again in the final 10 minutes as debutant Noel Mbo and Darren Oldaker (who also missed a penalty) both netted to secure all three points for Gillingham. Popa’s second goal of the game late on was not enough to inspire another fightback, as Oldaker also grabbed a second from a free-kick, meaning a breathless encounter ended 7-5 to the Gills.
The Under 21s’ attentions can now be concentrated on the second division of the Premier League 2, where they currently sit third in the table after nine games.
Reading Under 21s line-up: Legg, Holmes, Osho, Burley, Medford-Smith, East, Rollinson, Sheppard, Frost, Popa, Barrett