Reading team: Collins, Paul, Holzman, McIntyre (Daniel-Spray 46’), Stickland ©, Senga, Scott (Epkenyong 90+1’), Talent-Aryeetey (Giscombe 49’), Osorio, Méïté, Okine-Peters
A 19th-minute leveller from Jeremiah Okine-Peters secured Reading under-23s a point against Stoke City under-23s on Monday night, ending a dismal run of six defeats that stretched back to last year.
The Royals named a starting line-up that had space for first-team absentees Tom McIntyre and Yakou Méïté. It was good to see both in action, with Méïté making his second start for the under-23s after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the summer.
The visitors took an early lead, opening the scoring after just four minutes. Tom Curl evaded some challenges before pulling the ball back for Tashan Oakley-Boothe, who rifled a shot beyond Harvey Collins and in to the top corner.
Stoke didn’t have the lead for long however, as some quick reflexes from Jeremiah Okine-Peters drew Reading level in the 18th minute. After reacting quickly and rushing on to a poor back-pass from a Stoke defender, Okine-Peters slotted past visiting goalkeeper Robbie Hemfrey to score his second goal in three games.
Just under 10 minutes later, another defensive error from the visitors almost allowed Reading to take the lead – a poor clearance only went as far as Rashawn Scott, who struck a volleyed effort against the woodwork.
It was then Stoke’s turn to apply some pressure. A dangerous looking corner evaded some onrushing Stoke players in the box, before Malachi Talent-Aryeetey managed to get a crucial touch on a shot from Oakley-Boothe, deflecting the ball over the bar.
And Reading had Collins to thank for maintaining the score as we approached half time – a distant strike from Adam Porter was well saved by the Reading shot stopper to keep the game level.
Half-time – Reading U23 1-1 Stoke City U23
The start of the second half saw Tom McIntyre replaced, after getting 45 minutes to help ease his transition back in to competitive games. He was taken off for Kyle Daniel-Spray.
In the 57th minute, Louie Holzman came close to scoring Reading’s second – the centre-back reacted first to a loose ball from a corner, but his effort was deflected on to the crossbar.
It was a highly contested second half, with both sides pushing for a winner; the visitors had a penalty claim waved away in the 72nd minute, before some stubborn Stoke defending denied Ajani Giscombe a good opportunity.
Harvey Collins was called in to action once again late on, with the ‘keeper doing brilliantly to deny Doug Taylor’s late drilled effort.
But there was still time for some late drama. After charging in to the box in stoppage time, Méïté felt he had been unfairly dragged down by a Stoke defender – but the referee wasn’t interested.
And with that, the game ended all square. A well-earned point for the Royals!
Full-time – Reading U23 1-1 Stoke City U23
Reading goal: J. Okine-Peters 18’
Stoke City goal: T. Oakley-Boothe 4’
Reading under-23s’ first league point since November will be a very welcome one, as the boys look to try and recover from a dour run that saw them lose six games on the bounce. With just 15 points after 18 games, the Royals currently sit at the bottom of the Premier League 2 Division 2 table, in 14th place.
The boys are next in action again on Monday February 14 when they take on Derby County under-23s in what will be a very challenging Premier League Cup fixture. Reading are already out of the cup going in to their sixth and final Group C game, and will be hosting a Derby side that are unbeaten so far in their own cup campaign.
Reading’s next league game will be on February 21 when they travel to The City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest under-23s.
A very common phrase you’ll see in football is to ‘stop the rot’ - to try and dig your feet in and prevent things from getting worse. Monday’s game was crucial for the under-23s to do exactly that, ending a run of very disappointing results.
Monday’s game actually marked this first time the under-23s have conceded fewer than two goals in a game since they last picked up points, when they beat Middlesbrough under-23s 2-1 on March 29; they conceded an average of 3.8 goals a game in the six fixtures in between, which was a huge problem.
On a very positive note, it was fantastic to see Yakou Méïté finish the game – his first full 90 minutes of the season! Méïté’s return will hopefully be a big boost to a struggling first team, and I personally am really looking forward to seeing him back on the pitch for us in the Championship. His drive, determination, and sheer passion has really been missing from the side this season and hopefully his long-awaited return can help us in our mission to stay up.
So, the under-23s have ended their run of disappointing defeats – we just need the first team to now!