Reading team: Collins, Paul (Epkenyong 63’), Daniel-Spray (Tuma 84’), Campbell, Beacroft, Kanu, Okine-Peters (Furlong 46’), Talent-Aryeetey ©, Greaver, Abdel-Salam, Scott
Two Sunderland under-23s goals scuppered any hopes of a winning start to the year for Reading under-23s, as a relatively young and inexperienced Royals side was ultimately outfought in the North East.
With the announcement of the team news came a number of surprise names in the starting XI, as Malachi Talent-Aryeetey donned the captain’s armband. He was joined by a host of fresh faces that included players from both the under-18s and under-16s squads, which may be a result of a recent wave of Covid-19 that is reported to have swept through the academy. Combining this with the involvement of more established u23s players in that game on the weekend, plus the academy’s fixtures scheduled for later in the week, may explain the very young side fielded against the Black Cats.
Sunderland opened the scoring on the 10-minute mark as Nicky Gyimah found the corner of Harvey Collins’ goal with a neat finish. The hosts came close to adding to their lead only five minutes later, only to be denied first by the crossbar, and then on the line through some desperate Reading defending.
In the 20th minute Reading had their first real chance of the half – a free-kick routine worked the ball into Malachi Talent-Aryeetey’s feet, but the Royals youngster fired narrowly over the bar.
A few moments later a good save from Collins at his near post kept the score at 1-0, before a Sunderland corner was headed wide. Sunderland once again came close in the 37th minute, as Collins was robbed of possession – luckily for the goalkeeper, the resulting chip drifted wide.
Not a great half from a Reading perspective, but only one goal down at the break.
Half-time – Sunderland U23 1-0 Reading U23
Collins was called into action once again in the 56th minute as a well-worked Sunderland attack found Tyrese Dyce in some space. Dyce’s backheeled effort was well saved by Collins who got down quickly to keep the deficit at one goal.
Just moments later, a flurry of chances went Reading’s way, and the Royals came close to scoring. Half-time substitute Harrison Furlong was twice denied by Black Cats goalkeeper Jack McIntyre in quick succession.
In what was proving to be a game dominated by strong goalkeeping performances, in the 72nd minute it was Collins’ turn to impress again as the Royals keeper denied Nathan Newall.
But despite Collins’ best efforts Sunderland got the second goal that they probably deserved, as Dyce finished a quick Sunderland counter in the 88th minute to put the game to bed for the home side.
A disappointing start to 2022 for the Royals, but invaluable experience of football at a higher level for a whole host of young lads.
Full-time – Sunderland U23 2-0 Reading U23
Monday’s game marks a busy week for the academy, as many of the lads will be looking ahead to Thursday’s big FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie against Manchester United under-18s. In addition to this, the under-23s will be at home to Newcastle United under-23s on Friday as they round off their week of Tyne-Wear fixtures. Reading currently sit 12th in the table, a point behind Middlesbrough under-23s who have played an extra game.
New Year, new faces
It’s hard to read too much into this game given the nature of the side Reading fielded. Harvey Collins, Malachi Talent Aryeetey and Rashawn Scott are really the only ‘established’ under-23s that featured, with many of the other lads previously restricted to minutes off the bench, or not having featured at under-23 level at all.
One other new face (that we still don’t know much about officially) is that of Mehmet Ali’s replacement. At the time of writing this the club has not shared any official confirmation of Reading’s new under-23s manager, and the website still lists Mehmet Ali as holding that position. Thankfully, Twitter has come to our rescue and eagle-eyed Royals have noted Ali’s potential replacement – but that remains speculation for now.
Club development coach Pete Augustine will be leaving us to take up a post with Reading F.C.— Met Police FC (@MetPoliceFC) December 29, 2021
Gavin MacPherson: “I would like to thank Pete for his help, dedication and professionalism over the past couple of years. Pete will always be welcome at Imber Court”
We now must look ahead to the academy’s other fixtures this week, and hope to see more familiar faces back in action. You’ll be able to find reports for both of the games later this week here on The Tilehurst End’s website – if you haven’t’ already, consider dropping the Twitter a follow to be kept up to date on news surrounding the academy, as well as the club more generally!