Reading team: Holden, Paul, Holzman, Senga, Samuels (Sackey 45’), Purcell (Borgnis 88’), Osorio, Scott, Talent-Aryeetey, Okine-Peters, Melvin-Lambert (Clarke 45’)
A dominant display by an impressive Nottingham Forest under-23s side ensured Noel Hunt’s first game as manager of Reading under-23s ended in defeat on Monday.
It was something of a surprise to learn that Hunt would be taking over the role when the news was announced on Sunday, during what has been another whirlwind of a week for the club. I think most fans would agree that Hunt could prove to be a fantastic appointment, and it’s great to have characters that know and appreciate our club back in the picture. He will of course be hoping for better evenings in the role than he endured on Monday night, as his Reading side were well beaten on their travels.
Hunt’s first under-23s starting line-up featured a trophy-winning Royal in its ranks – Nahum Melvin-Lambert would lead the line after returning from his loan spell at St Patrick’s AFC, in which he helped the Dublin club towards winning silverware in the FAI Cup. It was also great to see Lynford Sackey and Imari Samuels involved after recent lengthy injury absences.
Forest started the game well, firing narrowly over James Holden’s bar within the opening 10 minutes from close range. At the other end, Claudio Osorio forced a good save from George Shelvey, before a follow up shot was blocked at the far post.
The home side opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Ateef Konaté. A long ball found the attacking midfielder, who fired in to the corner to give Forest the lead.
Holden was kept busy by the Forest attack throughout the game, and the Reading goalkeeper did well to keep out Julian Larsson and Aaron Donnelly within the space of a few minutes.
The hosts doubled their advantage in the 39th minute, after Will Swan got on the end of Larsson’s squared pass. Just five minutes later, Forest had the ball in the net again – it was Donnelly on the scoresheet this time after Konaté’s initial effort was blocked.
A difficult first half for another young Reading side, who struggled to cope with Forest’s attacking threat.
Half-time – Nottingham Forest U23 3-0 Reading U23
It didn’t take Forest long to pick up where they left off, as the home side scored their fourth just minutes in to the second half. This time it was Swan who provided for Larsson, with the latter calmly slotting past Holden.
The hosts added a fifth goal to their tally in the 56th minute, and Swan was involved again – a cross from Konaté found the head of the Forest forward who grabbed his second of the game.
Just four minutes later, the home side had a sixth goal, and Swan had his hat-trick. An Oliver Hammond pass was threaded neatly through the Reading defence, and Swan cut inside before rifling home.
And, to rub further salt in the wounds, Forest capped off a hugely dominant display by scoring their seventh (and final) goal of the evening in the game’s final minutes, via Hammond.
One to forget for the Royals.
Full-time – Nottingham Forest U23 7-0 Reading U23
Nottingham Forest goals: A. Konaté 23’; W. Swan 39’, 56’ 62’; A. Donnelly 44’; J. Larsson 46’; O. Hammond 94’
Reading find themselves bottom of the Premier League 2 Division 2 Table in 14th, with just 15 points from 19 games. Although there’s no relegation from the league, the Royals will still be keen to finish strongly and hopefully make a good account of themselves in the final league standings.
The under-23s’ next opponents will be Wolverhampton Wanderers’ under-23s in an away league fixture on February 28th, before the boys travel to Chesham United for a Berks & Bucks Senior FA Cup quarter-final tie next week on March 2.
On the Hunt for more points
On the pitch – bad. Off the pitch… better? Noel Hunt as under-23s manager has the potential to work out really well for the club, in more ways than one. In theory, his passion for the club and strong attitude will trickle down to the young lads he mentors, and just having fan favourites like Hunt in and around the club will help to soothe the toxicity and bring some soul back to RG2 (which I think we have dearly missed recently). It won’t fix the bigger problems eating away at our club from the top down, but it was an appointment that pleasantly surprised me and felt like a step in the right direction.
Hunt will have his work cut out though, bringing some confidence back to a very young under-23s side that haven’t won a game in the league since November 29. The returns of players such as Lynford Sackey and Imari Samuels will hopefully bring a boost to a defence that has conceded an average of 3.4 goals a game so far in 2022.
Up next, a big week for the young Royals – a chance to redeem themselves away at Wolves, before they’re in action in a cup competition that has proved fruitful for Reading in the past.