Reading team: Boyce-Clarke, Sackey, Holzman, Ashcroft, Bristow, Purcell (Abdel-Salam 87’), Osorio ©, Nyarko (Abrefa 68’), Vickers, Camara, Clarke (Okine-Peters 87’)
An inspired Jahmari Clarke hat-trick saw off Norwich City under-23s in the Premier League Cup on Monday afternoon.
The striker returned to Mehmet Ali’s side, having not featured against Birmingham City in Reading’s previous game – he was joined in the starting line-up by Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Caylan Vickers and David Nyarko. Absent were Harvey Collins, Michael Stickland, Malachi Talent-Aryeetey and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan; Claudio Osorio wore the armband once again in place of Stickland.
Reading got off to a strong start as Clarke looked to cause problems. In the eighth minute, his strong shot was palmed away by visiting goalkeeper Joe Rose after some nice work with the ball.
And if anything, this served as an omen for the Canaries, previewing what was to come – the striker got his first of the match one minute later, beating Rose with a low shot following Lynford Sackey’s ball in.
Soon after at the other end, Coniah Boyce-Clarke was called in to action, getting his body behind a powerful effort from Norwich midfielder Nelson Khumbeni in the 15th minute.
However, Reading remained largely on top, and Clarke came close to his second goal in the 21st minute. A well-timed ball from Mamadi Camara released the striker, with Rose denying him this time.
And five minutes later, Clarke was involved again – the goal scorer almost turned provider following a nice exchange with Sackey, whose effort was deflected wide. The resulting corner from Ethan Bristow came even closer, eventually being flicked on and smashed against the crossbar.
In the 38th minute, Clarke looked to provide again, this time teeing up stand-in skipper Claudio Osorio. The midfielder’s effort stung the palms of Rose, who kept the deficit at one.
And as half-time approached, Norwich found a way to equalise. A ball in from the left dropped for Tom Dickson-Peters, whose volleyed goal came against the run of play. It marked his second goal against Reading in as many games, with both goals frustratingly coming moments before the half-time whistle.
Half time – Reading U23 1-1 Norwich City U23
It’s fair to say that Reading were completely dominant in the first half, despite the scoreline not showing that. They had plenty of chances, and early in the second half they reclaimed their lead.
Once again it was Jahmari Clarke who put the Royals in front, finishing neatly after some brilliant work from the feet of Osorio – the midfielder dodged a challenge before releasing Clarke, and the striker confidently tucked away his second goal of the game.
On the hour mark, Clarke went looking for the hat-trick; some more good work from the striker presented a shooting opportunity, and Rose was forced in to action once again. He managed to keep Clarke at bay – for now.
Fifteen minutes later, it was Coniah Boyce-Clarke’s turn to spring in to action. The goalkeeper parried an awkward shot from Norwich attacker Jonathan Rowe, before immediately reacting to the presence of Joe Duffy, smothering the ball at his feet before he could follow up.
In the 85th minute, Clarke got the hat-trick he deserved, and he made sure to do it in style. Caylan Vickers showed great desire to close down a Norwich clearance, allowing the ball to fall to Clarke on the edge of the box; the man of the moment absolutely blasted a rocket of a shot past the visiting keeper, which cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar. Boom!
As the referee began to monitor his watch, the Canaries looked desperately for a way back in to the game. And in the 89th minute, they should have clawed one back – a cross wasn’t dealt with by the Reading defence, falling rather fortuitously for Duffy, whose mistimed effort flew over the bar.
One minute later, Norwich made amends, scoring their second of the game via Abu Kamara. His goal ensured a nervy end to the encounter, but Reading ultimately stood firm.
In the end, it was a hard-fought and well deserved victory against a Norwich City side capable of scoring plenty of goals. The script was ready, as both of the previous Norwich goal scorers from the 3-3 draw netted again, but this time the Royals held on for all three points.
Full time – Reading U23 3-2 Norwich City U23
Reading’s next cup fixture comes in the form of Derby County under-23s, who will host the Royals at the Loughborough University Stadium on Thursday 18th November.
The boys are in action again on Friday, as they travel away to take on Fulham under-23s at Motspur Park in the Premier League 2, Division 2. It will be a tough challenge for the young Royals – Fulham currently sit top of the table, on 16 points after seven games.
A dominant day for Clarke
It’s become quite common for me to dish out praise at the end of these reports, and today will be no different – no prizes for guessing who will be receiving the plaudits.
Jahmari Clarke was simply magnificent, and his three goals were no more than he deserved. Aside from his contributions to the scoresheet, his all-round play was excellent, holding the ball up where needed, bringing others in to the game, and being a general nuisance for the Norwich defence.
While he’s a very strong, athletic forward who gets lots of compliments for the physical side of his play, against Norwich he showed his technical prowess with neat turns, good feet, and clinical finishes. When he’s at his best, it’s easy to see why Pauno has the confidence to play him up top in the first team, and in this sort of form he will definitely be hoping to get more chances to lead the line before Lucas João and Yakou Méïté return from injury.
Clarke will be thankful for the service he received throughout the game – Sackey deserves praise for his link-up in the first half, and Osorio’s assist was delightful. The third goal came as a result of Caylan Vickers’ hard work, and Mehmet Ali will be happy with his team’s contributions all round.
It will certainly be interesting to see where Clarke fits into Pauno’s plans in the run-up to Christmas. With a lack of options up front and Championship games coming thick and fast (excuse the cliché), he’ll definitely get more chances – and fingers crossed he takes them!