We dictated the first-half play in the rain at Hotspur Way but it was defender Joy Mukena, making his first Under-18 Premier League appearance since the end of September with regular centre-backs Japhet Tanganga and Jon Dinzeyi away on international duty, who got the last touch on Teddy Howe’s driven effort to give the visitors the lead shortly before the interval.
Duncan levelled it up on the stroke of half-time, but after the unfortunate Mukena accidentally knocked Ade Shokunbi’s drive inside the near post we were unable to find a way back into the game.
Duncan needed only four minutes to try a shot after being fed by Oliver Skipp, his effort striking the post, and after Jordan Holsgrove sent a free-kick just over the bar for Reading, Sterling was left wondering how he hadn’t scored after 19 minutes. He saw shots from inside the area blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Liam Driscoll twice in quick succession, with the latter attempt ricocheting off the striker and against the woodwork.
Samuel Shashoua went close on a couple of occasions around the half-hour mark but then it was the Royals’ turn to hit the frame of the goal – House’s diving header from Howe’s cross cannoning off Alfie Whiteman’s right-hand post on 32 minutes.
Whiteman was having to rush off his line a few times to defend his penalty box as the half wore on but he was powerless to prevent Reading’s opener on 42 minutes as defender Mukena, sliding back towards the goal-line, helped Howe’s angled drive from the right side of the box into the net.
Whiteman then made a good stop from Joe Rollinson after he crept in behind our defence but we were back on level terms just before the break as Shashoua competed for the ball in the area and it broke for Duncan to drill into the bottom corner.
Rollinson found the side netting for the Royals shortly after the restart but we fell behind again on 57 minutes when Shokunbi’s ball in from the right went in at the near post off Mukena.
We couldn’t muster an equaliser after that and Whiteman had to be alert to save Ramarni Medford-Smith’s free header and Danny Loader’s close-range shot in the last 16 minutes.
JOHN MCDERMOTT, HEAD OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, SAID
“We were quite pleased at half-time, we’d played with real energy, it was a match between two very combative sides with two different but effective approaches and I really enjoyed watching us in that period. Obviously we hit the post a couple of times, to concede was disappointing but recently there’s been a steel and a grit about us that enabled us to bounce back straight away.
“I was really disappointed with the second half, I thought it was an ugly, scrappy affair and there was no rhythm or flow. The first half was a good advert for youth football but the second half was really poor. That’s our responsibility – we weren’t able to impose the rhythm that we were able to in the first half so overall we’re disappointed with how the second half panned out, not necessarily in terms of the result but just the overall scrappy performance. It was unfortunate to concede with two own goals but these things happen and I still thought we had enough opportunities to win the game.”
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Eyoma, Tsaroulla, Skipp (Patterson 74), Mukena, Marsh (c), Shashoua, Oakley-Boothe, Sterling (Oteh 63), Duncan, Bennetts (P Maghoma 79). Substitute (not used): Freeman (GK).
We’re back in Under-18 Premier League action at Hotspur Way next Saturday (November 19) as West Ham United come to visit. It’s a London derby that coincidentally serves as a prelude to the meeting of the two clubs in the Premier League at White Hart Lane later that day.