Reading team: Norcott, Abdel-Salam, Morrison © (Tuma 46’), Beacroft, Trialist, Borgnis, Osorio (Addo-Antoine 85’), Furlong, Scott, Greaver (Campbell 72’), Epkenyong
Another very young Reading under-23s side were well beaten on Friday night, as visitors Newcastle United under-23s cruised to a relatively comfortable victory at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
In a line-up that saw Michael Morrison wear the captain’s armband as he continues his recovery from injury, Reading named a trialist as part of their starting eleven - I’m quite confident I can confirm it was indeed 24-year-old left-back Brandon Mason, who left former club Coventry City over the summer and was reported to be on trial with Reading earlier this month. There was also a start for Aston Greaver following his late goal against Manchester United under-18s on Thursday in the FA Youth Cup.
Mason was involved early on, combining well with Rashawn Scott to work some space on the left flank. Scott’s mazy run looked dangerous, but the resulting effort was blocked.
In the 12th minute, the visitors took the lead. A low, driven ball played in towards Reading’s far post found Jay Turner-Cooke, who slotted home.
Ten minutes later, the Magpies looked to exploit some space on Reading’s left – Mason got across to cover, tripping up a Newcastle forward with a dangling leg in the process. Despite firm appeals from Newcastle’s players and bench the referee refused to point to the spot, and Reading were a little fortunate to get away with what looked like a pretty strong penalty shout.
Shortly after, Reading looked to grab an equaliser. Aston Greaver couldn’t quite get a whipped cross under his control, before some more good link-up play between Scott and Mason fashioned a shooting chance that was eventually blocked.
In the 36th minute, there was an anxious moment as a Tom Norcott clearance was charged down; luckily, the ball ricocheted wide of the Reading goal.
The next ten minutes or so rounded off a fairly uneventful and tepid first half as Reading went in to the break a goal behind the visitors.
Half-time – Reading U23 0-1 Newcastle United U23
As the sides came out for the second half, skipper Michael Morrison was replaced by Ugandan youth international Basil Tuma. The winger looked eager to make an instant impact, happy to drive at the Newcastle defence each time he got the ball.
It didn’t take long before Norcott was called in to action, making a succession of strong saves early in the second half. These spelled warning signs for Reading, who were frequently creating problems for themselves when playing out from the back.
In the 52nd minute, the visitors doubled their lead. After a powerful run from a Newcastle forward the ball was squared to a queue of players waiting in the box, and it was Charlie Wiggett who tapped home the Magpies’ second.
Reading were on the ropes, and looking nervy in defence. Norcott came to the rescue when the ball was lost again after playing out from the back, before the visitors won a free kick in a dangerous area that fortunately came to nothing.
In the 66th minute, Newcastle added a third. A cross in from Reading’s right found Cameron Ferguson unmarked in the box, and the forward had enough time to chest the ball down before calmly slotting past Norcott.
Determined not to give up, Reading looked to retaliate after the restart. Tuma, who had been incredibly lively throughout the half, concluded a powerful run with a good effort that flew just over the bar.
But in the 71st minute, a Newcastle player was tripped in Reading’s box, and this time the referee did point to the spot. Joe White stepped up to take the penalty, firing past Norcott for Newcastle’s fourth of the evening.
And just four minutes later, the referee was pointing to the spot again… but this time for Reading! Another brilliant run from Tuma ended in a chance for the Royals to get on the scoresheet, and Scott took on the responsibility. He buried his penalty straight in to the bottom corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way in the process.
Both teams looked to finish the game strongly, with Norcott again making some good saves throughout the last ten minutes of the game. As the match approached its end Newcastle saw the result out in a professional and disciplined manner, which was typical of a night in which they never really looked like taking anything less than three points.
Full-time – Reading U23 1-4 Newcastle United U23
Reading goals: R. Scott 75’ (Pen)
Newcastle United goals: J. Turner-Cooke 12’; C. Wiggett 52’; C. Ferguson 66’; J. White 72’ (Pen)
Friday night was the under-23s’ fourth consecutive defeat, with the Royals conceding four goals or more in three of those games. They sit 13th in the table, a point ahead of Birmingham City (who have played one game fewer).
It won’t be long before the boys are back in action again, as they’ll be taking on Norwich City under-23s once more in the Premier League Cup on Monday. It’s incredibly unlikely that Reading will advance in the cup based on their current position, but they can try and reclaim some pride by beating a Norwich team that put five past them last time they met. Expect plenty of goals in this one – we’ve had 18 from their previous three encounters!
Scott and Tuma shine
Tonight Reading struggled to establish any real foothold against a well-organised Newcastle side. Without the ball, Reading felt nervy, and this was especially apparent once Morrison went off at half-time. It was great to see him back in a Reading shirt by the way, and it’s clear to see why he is tipped as someone with a future in coaching based on how he encouraged and motivated the young lads around him.
At times this evening, Reading were very much the architects of their own downfall. There was a certain stubbornness to wanting to play out from the back at almost every opportunity, and it just wasn’t working. I knew exactly where Reading wanted to go from each goal kick, and you can bet that if I knew, Newcastle did too. They pressed Reading with intent as soon as that ball went short, often winning possession back deep in the Royals’ half.
When Reading did get the ball clear of their own final third, and it found its way to the feet of Rashawn Scott or Basil Tuma, things started to happen. Tuma was a breath of fresh air after his half-time introduction with his pace and strong running, and Newcastle struggled to contain him at times. Equally, Scott shined once again for Reading – although his tricks and flicks don’t always come off, he never shies away from receiving the ball and his first instinct always seems to be to get the Royals further up the pitch.
Now one player that Reading fans may be interested to hear more about is Friday’s trialist, Brandon Mason. Reading will have been looking at Mason as potential fullback cover whilst senior players Andy Yiadom and Baba Rahman are away with Ghana at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. The club will also likely be keen to secure a longer term solution at left back to slot in once Baba’s loan deal expires at the end of the season.
So, how did Mason look?
Overall, he had quite a mixed game. Going forward his linkup play with Scott was strong, and together they created some good crossing opportunities on the left. There were a few misplaced passes here and there, but that could easily be down to a little bit of rustiness. As an attacking option, I think he’d fit in fine.
Defensively I have more questions. Mason was a little fortunate not to concede a penalty in the first half after leaving a leg out dangling, and there were a few times Newcastle’s wide men got the better of him a bit too easily. Again, lots of this could be chalked down to rustiness for a player who has had very limited game time since leaving Coventry City, in addition to a reported hamstring tear in late August.
Would he be a good fit for the first team? It’s hard to say conclusively after one game, but if his salary expectations aren’t too high then we don’t have a lot to lose. He’s still quite young and having him as an option would greatly reduce the pressure and expectation on Ethan Bristow whenever Baba is unavailable. Some more opportunities to get up to match sharpness and it could be a good bit of business – time will tell.