Reading team: Collins, Abrefa, Ashcroft, Holzman, Purcell, Senga, Osorio ©, Scott, Camara, Vickers, Ehibhatiomhan
Despite a spirited effort from Reading-under 23s in the Premier League Cup on Monday night, they were ultimately defeated 2-1 by Division 1 opponents Derby County under-23s.
There was just one change made to the starting eleven, as Harvey Collins replaced Coniah Boyce-Clarke in goal. Boyce-Clarke will now be absent from the under-23s for a short period, following an initial one-month loan move to National League South side St Albans City FC. There was also the absence of Jahmari Clarke to note, following a recent minor injury to the striker.
The home side made a flying start to the game, opening the scoring in under a minute. After a Derby cross was punched away by Harvey Collins, the ball fell to Isaac Hutchinson, who fired the Rams in to the lead.
In the 23rd minute Reading had their first good chance of the game, as a Tyrell Ashcroft cross found its way to Rashawn Scott. The midfielder couldn’t keep his effort down, blazing over from inside the box.
A succession of chances then went Derby’s way around the half-hour mark – a threatening free-kick from out wide came to nothing, before a good save from Collins at his near post kept the score at 1-0.
As we approached the halftime whistle, the Rams doubled their advantage. Some quick interchanges by the hosts gave Luke Plange some space on the edge of the box, before the striker rifled an effort in to the top corner.
Half time – Derby County U23 2-0 Reading U23
As we got underway for the second half, both sides recognised the importance of scoring the next goal. A long-range effort from Hutchinson was saved by Collins, before Mamadi Camara curled over the bar on his left foot, following some good work by Scott.
Shortly after it was Scott who looked lively once again, receiving the ball out wide and cutting inside. After a quick one-two he struck a good effort that just flew wide of the post.
In the 66th minute Derby applied some pressure of their own, and went close through Kornell McDonald. Despite some determined defending the ball fell to McDonald, whose shot flew over Collins’ crossbar.
10 minutes later, the Rams should have grabbed a third. A dangerous ball in from Connor Dixon somehow evaded everyone in the box, before Dylan Williams smashed an effort against the crossbar.
In the 84th minute, the Royals pulled one back. A Ben Purcell cross found Jack Senga in the box, and the defender was able to loop the ball over the goalkeeper and in to the back of the net.
Senga’s late goal proved to be too little too late for Reading, as the Rams held on to maintain top spot in Group C of the Premier League Cup.
Full time – Derby County U23 2-1 Reading U23
It’s still all to play for in the Premier League Cup as Reading sit in third place in Group C, with three points. Above them are Charlton Athletic under-23s on four points, and unbeaten group leaders Derby County under-23s on seven points. Norwich City under-23s sit bottom of the group on two points after a winless start to their cup campaign.
Reading will play each team in the group once more, so they can still progress to the next stage of the tournament – their next Premier League Cup game will be held on the 10th December, when they welcome Charlton Athletic to the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
The young Royals’ next game will take place on Monday 22nd November, when the boys travel to The Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion under-23s in the Premier League 2 Division 2.
A league above
Despite the result, Reading deserve credit for their approach and performance in the game. Although Derby are struggling in Division 1 of the Premier League 2, they’ll be used to playing youth academies of the very highest calibre week in, week out. The Royals played well, and could even have taken more from the game if their finishing was slightly better. Rashawn Scott once again looked to be the danger man, and I feel his name will continue to be mentioned a lot throughout the under-23s’ season.
It is also worth noting that this is a Reading side still missing a number of important players, in addition now to Jahmari Clarke. His injury seems to be more short-term, so hopefully we will see him return to the under-23s (and the first team!) sooner rather than later.
Boyce-Clarke’s loan move will also present a chance for Harvey Collins to have a sustained run in the team, without the one-in-one-out swapping method previously used by Mehmet Ali. Collins has looked good throughout the season, so there’s potential for Boyce-Clarke’s temporary departure to benefit both goalkeepers.
Hopefully Reading can start to build on recent performances, and start to turn this into points in the league – they do need to start climbing the table.