Two goals down inside 15 minutes in the Barclays Under-18 Premier League clash, we conceded a third goal direct from a corner shortly after the interval before Lloyd Ross found the net to give us some belief.
The players did find their rhythm in the last 25 minutes with substitutes George Marsh – the latest Under-16s player to make his debut at the higher level – joining Armani Daly and Charlie Hayford – back from injury – in providing some fresh impetus.
Ultimately, though, we left the Royals’ Hogwood Park training ground empty-handed.
We fielded a much-changed side to that which defeated Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup at White Hart Lane on Monday and it was clear from the very first whistle that Reading meant business.
Not even 15 seconds had expired when Noor Husin played Harry Cardwell clean through on goal, but goalkeeper Tom Glover was quick off his line to force the centre-forward wide and ensure there was no further danger.
The home side took the lead on 13 minutes when Andrija Novakovich latched onto Husin’s corner and fired inside Glover’s left-hand post with the aid of a deflection.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Jake Shephard’s out-swinger from the right bounced up in the area and hit Chris Paul’s hand – the referee awarding a penalty which Husin powered into the net.
Still the home side pressed forward, forcing us into more mistakes as the period went on, and we needed two goal-line clearances to keep the score down. The first was from Anton Walkes after a slip by Christian Maghoma saw Cardwell storm through on goal mid-way through the half, with the second following three minutes later from Joe Muscatt after Novakovich headed a corner back across goal towards Glover’s right-hand post.
Lewis Collins swept the ball home from Cardwell’s cross in Reading’s next attack, but an off-side flag meant his effort didn’t stand.
Ismail Azzaoui tried a couple of shots as the half went on, both of which were blocked, but it was again the hosts who pushed forward as half-time approached. Husin’s shot was deflected behind, with Novakovich testing Glover with a header from the subsequent corner.
Reading finally did get a third goal four minutes after the restart, Husin’s corner kick deceiving everyone in the area and looping in at the back post.
We produced a response on 54 minutes, however, when Muscatt found Shayon Harrison on the left and his high ball into the box sailed over goalkeeper Lewis Ward, with Ross tucking home at the back post.
Harrison glanced a header wide from Paul’s right-sided cross as we got forward again, with substitutes Hayford and Daly combining well just seconds after coming on as part of a double change – Hayford clipping wide at the near post from the latter’s low cross.
Hayford seemed determined to make up for lost time having spent three-and-a-half months in the treatment room, putting in an energetic performance in the latter stages as we moved the ball about with more purpose. Debutant Marsh also brought something to the game, working hard to keep possession away from the hosts.
We got down the flanks on several occasions, with Hayford firing over the bar from the edge of the box on the half-volley after one such foray down the right by Paul with 11 minutes remaining.
Muscatt found Ryan Loft at the back post with a left-sided cross two minutes later, but the striker’s effort from a tight angle was straight at keeper Ward in the last real chance of the match.
Spurs: Glover, Paul, Muscatt, Amos, Maghoma, Walkes, Ross, Stylianides (Hayford 58), Loft, Azzaoui (Marsh 46), Harrison (Daly 58). Substitutes (not used): Owens, Austin (GK).