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Academy Roundup: Mixed Start To The Season For Under-23s

Scott Marshall’s side have a 100% record at home, but 0% on the road.

West Ham United v Reading: Premier League 2 Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images

Away from first-team action, the under-23 season is well underway too. Scott Marshall’s side have now played four games in the not-very-well-named Premier League 2 Division 2 - the 12-team second tier of academy football.

Last season, the young Royals finished third but failed to gain promotion to the top tier after a penalty shoot-out defeat in the playoffs. Sound familiar? In the case of the under-23s, it was a semi-final defeat to Newcastle United after the sides had drawn 2-2 in normal time.

However, Reading haven’t made a particularly quick start to this season, and they’ll need to pick up some form if they’re to challenge for promotion once again. The Royals have won twice and lost twice in their opening four games (the season runs for 22 matches), sitting sixth. Below, we’ve recapped all the action so far.


Reading 6-0 Newcastle United (August 12)

(Novakovich x3, Nevers x2, Frost)

A perfect start to the season saw the Royals hit the Magpies for six at home. Andrija Novakovich scored a hat-trick - which ultimately wasn’t enough to get him into Jose Gomes’ first-team plans, while Thierry Nevers netted a brace and Tyler Frost completed the rout.

It was also notable for the senior players who appeared on the day. Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary and Jordan Obita all started the match - the latter building up his fitness for the under-23s before his first-team return at Plymouth Argyle in the second round of the League Cup.

Andrésson; Gunter, Burley, Odimayo, Obita (Medford-Smith); Frost (Coleman), East, Holsgrove; McCleary (Liddle), Nevers, Novakovich


Manchester United 2-0 Reading (August 16)

A trip to Manchester United is arguably the hardest game Reading’s under-23s will face all season. Indeed, the young Red Devils sit top of the table at the moment after winning three times and drawing once in their opening four games. Because of that, a defeat at Leigh Sports Village wasn’t too bad a result.

A positive from the Royals’ point of view was seeing Tom Holmes return. The centre half, who made his first-team debut against Bolton Wanderers at the Madejski Stadium in 2018, got an hour under his belt after returning from injury.

Team wise, there was no room for Gunter or McCleary, with Tennai Watson coming in at right back for the former. Obita again got a valuable 57 minutes while previous first-team players Michael Olise and Danny Loader also started. Both could well find game time easier to come by for the under-23s this season.

Andrésson; Watson, Odimayo, Holmes (Nevers), Burley, Obita (Medford-Smith); East, Holsgrove; Olise, Liddle, Loader


West Ham United 3-0 Reading (August 23)

Another disappointing loss on the road for the Royals, who were beaten by the Hammers in Dagenham. Again though, we’re talking about strong opposition. Reading were going up against a West Ham side who, like Man United, have won three of their opening four and drawn the other.

There was no room for Gunter, McCleary or Novakovich in the side, but Obita managed to get the full 90 minutes - something he’d repeat at Plymouth for the first team. Holmes managed the same after his return from injury, while there was also a first start for Teddy Howe - like Obita, he started at Plymouth four days later.

Andresson; Howe, Odimayo, Osho, Holmes, Obita; Coleman, Tetek; Liddle, Olise, Nevers


Reading 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

(Nevers x1, Liddle x1)

The Royals now have a 100% record at home this season! They had to do it the hard way though, coming from a goal down to the Baggies at the Mad Stad to grab the win. Now when have we ever seen Reading pull off a comeback against West Brom at home before?

The away side opened the scoring through Jamie Soule, who slotted home after an error from Ethan Coleman at the back. However, goals from Nevers - his third of the season - and Adam Liddle completed the turnaround.

Myles Roberts made his first appearance of the season in goal - he’s otherwise been on loan at non-league side Tonbridge Angels as cover for - interestingly - Reading academy graduate Jonathan Henly. There were two triallists, while Oli Pendlebury played for the first time.

Roberts; Howe, Odimayo, Burley, Medford-Smith; Trialist A, Trialist B (Pendlebury 87); Olise, Nevers, Liddle


Any other business?

There’s been a few departures from the under-23s during the opening weeks of the season. Excluding the now-not-included Gunter and McCleary, Novakovich was sold to Frosinone Calcio on September 2. There were also loan exits for Tennai Watson (Coventry City), Jordan Holsgrove (Atletico Baleares) and Tom Holmes (KSV Roeselare).

Otherwise, Akin Odimayo made his first-team debut, playing the full 90 minutes at Plymouth Argyle in the League Cup. That game also saw appearances for Teddy Howe, Gabriel Osho, Michael Olise, Jordan Obita, Josh Barrett and Danny Loader. There was potential for three more debuts, but none of Ramarni Medford-Smith, Ethan Coleman and Thierry Nevers were brought off the bench.

On the flipside, one players who hasn’t appeared yet is Lexus Beeden. The 19 year-old defender joined the under-23s in the summer from Tooting and Mitcham (where we signed Michail Antonio from), but he’s yet to make his debut as far as I can see.

Next up for the Royals is another home game: Swansea City. The Welsh side come to the Madejski Stadium after the international break, taking on the Royals on Monday September 16 at 7pm. They’re currently ninth in the table.