Reading team: Boyce-Clarke, Holzman, Ashcroft, Abrefa (Stickland 46’), Purcell (Bristow 46’), Sackey, Osorio ©, Talent-Aryeetey, Camara, Clarke, Ehibhatiomhan (Vickers 73’).
Reading under-23s suffered just their second league defeat of the season after a late Burnley under-23s goal secured all three points for the home side.
Mehmet Ali made four changes to the side that drew with Norwich City last week, with Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Kelvin Abrefa, Lynford Sackey and Ben Purcell starting in place of Harvey Collins, Imari Samuels, Ethan Bristow and Michael Stickland. Claudio Osorio wore the armband in the absence of Stickland, who began the game on the bench after making his senior league debut against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Burnley opened the scoring after just three minutes, taking advantage of a freshly changed Reading defence that had yet to settle into the game. Clarets striker Joe McGlynn ran across the Reading back line, getting on the end of a clever through ball from Ne-Jai Tucker to poke the ball home.
Reading’s first chance came via stand-in skipper Osorio; his 15th minute free kick was on target, but dealt with by the Burnley goalkeeper.
The Clarets went on the hunt for a second goal – a 25th-minute corner found Burnley defender Bobby Thomas at the back post, but his effort was hooked off the line by the Reading defence. Three minutes later, Burnley had another chance, with McGlynn almost finding his strike partner Michael Mellon in the Reading box.
Burnley did score their second in the 29th minute, and it was Mellon in the thick of it again. A slight miscommunication at the back meant Reading didn’t deal with a ball in from the right, which left Mellon free to loop the ball over an off-balance Boyce-Clarke.
Reading could now sense that there was a risk of the game slipping away from them, so the Royals pushed hard to get themselves back in to the match. In the 32nd minute, Jahmari Clarke came close, his glancing header just wide of the target.
As half-time approached, Reading needed a goal – and in the 40th minute they got one. A battle on the right provided Mamadi Camara with an opportunity to score his second goal in as many games, and he made no mistake, slotting past the Burnley goalkeeper to cut the deficit to one.
Half time – Burnley U23 2-1 Reading U23
Mehmet Ali made use of the break to tinker with his Reading side, with Ethan Bristow and Michael Stickland coming on for Ben Purcell and Kelvin Abrefa. The boys helped to sure up the back line, restricting Burnley’s chances to try and kill the game off early on in the second half.
Reading looked for the all-important equaliser, and came very close to getting it in the 80th minute – a good chance fell to Lynford Sackey, whose half-volley narrowly rocketed over the Burnley crossbar. The Royals continued to press for a second goal, but the Clarets stood firm.
As the game approached its final stages, the hosts ended any lingering hopes Reading had of a late comeback in Lancashire. Burnley substitute Sam Unwin scored the Clarets’ third after spending just three minutes on the pitch, his 90th minute shot cannoning in off the far post to secure all the points for the home side.
Defeat for Reading leaves them ninth in the PL2 table, with eight points after six games. Their next test comes in the form of Birmingham City under-23s, who will travel to RG2 to take on the Royals under the lights of the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Monday 4th October, with kick off scheduled for 7pm.
Full time – Burnley U23 3-1 Reading U23
Before the game, seeing Osorio as the captain on the team sheet was a welcome sight. It seems to suggest that Mehmet Ali and his coaching staff see leadership qualities in Osorio, which would show a maturity for the more psychological side of the game in a player who already has plenty of technical ability and potential.
I’ve sung the praises of Osorio before after keeping tabs on him earlier in the season, and it’s fantastic to see him developing what he brings to the team off the ball, as well as on the ball. I’d love to see him get some chances in the first team this season, and really do believe he would benefit immensely from being in a match-day squad around other technically gifted midfielders such as John Swift, Alen Halilović and Ovie Ejaria.
With that said, some of usual skipper Michael Stickland’s communication and defensive organisation was missed in the first half. Reading will be disappointed with the two first-half goals they conceded (particularly the second), and the areas Burnley were finding space with the ball. Stickland’s introduction in the second half helped restrict Burnley’s opportunities, with their eventual third goal coming on the back of a quick counter through what was, to be fair, a very nice finish.
The young Royals will be back in action soon enough against a Birmingham side that have really struggled for form this season, in what should be a great opportunity to return to winning ways. And with free entry (and free parking!) at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Monday, what better way to get your home football fix without needing to wait all the way until the 16th October!