Jack Roles initially hauled us back level at Reading’s Hogwood Park training ground and after going in at the break 3-1 down, we made up the deficit once more through Aramide Oteh’s penalty and a fine Reo Griffiths solo strike in the opening stages of the second period.
But while we were a constant threat going forward, thanks in part to the powerful runs of centre-forward Oteh, we allowed the Royals to take the lead for a third – and ultimately decisive – time on the hour mark when Akin Odimayo converted unchallenged following a free-kick to make it 4-3.
Both goalkeepers produced saves in the closing moments of an entertaining game but although we piled forward looking for yet another equaliser, Reading took the points in the Under-18 Premier League.
The home side went ahead 20 minutes in when a cross came in from the right and Ben House’s effort was repelled by goalkeeper Brandon Austin at point-blank range, only for the ball to ricochet back in off the striker.
We levelled on 34 minutes when Jon Dinzeyi picked out Under-18s debutant Oliver Skipp and he roamed free through the middle before playing in the supporting Roles to fire home.
Parity lasted all of four minutes as defender TJ Eyoma (pictured, below) was adjudged to have impeded House in our area and Dan Loader sent Austin the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
We were seeing more of the ball and putting together some purposeful moves but we were undone at the back again a minute before the interval as Loader’s speculative shot from 20 yards took a slight deflection and spun into the bottom corner of the net.
Trailing 3-1, we came out for the second half full of intent and again caused the Royals problems with Keanan Bennetts seeing his shot kept out by goalkeeper Billy Collins.
We reduced the arrears on 50 minutes when Griffiths was tripped just inside the box by Harry Philby and Oteh crashed his spot kick in off the woodwork. Six minutes later, Griffiths embarked on a good solo run and, with space opening up for him, he didn’t need a second invitation to fire emphatically into the net from the edge of the box and make it 3-3.
Oteh headed off the line to deny House at the other end, but the hosts edged themselves back in front on the hour mark when Odimayo got on the end of Tyler Frost’s in-swinging free-kick from the right flank and converted with ease.
Austin prevented Loader from completing his hat-trick while we continued to push forward, with Oteh often outmuscling his marker in attack. On one such occasion, after pulling clear of the nearest defender, he got a shot away from the right side of the box but was thwarted by a block from Collins.
Austin, who scrambled down to his left to keep out Cameron Green’s low free-kick on 84 minutes, was practically playing on the half-way line as the seconds ticked down and we kept trying to force the issue with Oteh going close again. Time ran out, though, and the Royals took the points.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“We’re devastated after the work we put in that we didn’t win. There are mixed emotions really. On the one hand, we’re bitterly disappointed at the performances of some of the players and the way in which we defended and on the other hand we’re really pleased with some very positive appearances and some outstanding attacking play. As we go forward we need to make sure that we marry the attacking and defending up.
“We’re disappointed at the nature of the goals conceded and some players who we know can do better and should have done better in certain situations. We keep talking about and practicing fundamentals but sometimes you just need the players to grasp them. It’s good that we kept coming back from behind, we were very honest and we never gave in so it wasn’t a lack of effort or spirit, it was a lack of doing basic but important jobs at the right times. I was pleased with the end and the never-give-up attitude, we’ve just got to eradicate some unforced errors.”
Spurs U18s: Austin, Hinds, Brown (Duncan 83), Marsh (c), Eyoma, Dinzeyi, Griffiths, Skipp (Oakley-Boothe 65), Oteh, Roles, Bennetts (Gonzalez-Velasco 76). Substitutes (not used): Mukena, De Bie (GK).
Attentions now turn to our opening match in the UEFA Youth League at home to Monaco on Wednesday (September 14). As participants of the UEFA Champions League, we’ve been automatically entered into the Under-19 youth tournament, with our group stage fixtures mirroring those of the senior side.