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#U18 #MatchReport #Reading

Under-18s romp to win over Royals

Reading 1-6 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 06 April 2024, 14:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s got back to winning ways with an impressive away win over Reading on Saturday.

The returning Mikey Moore, given the captain’s armband, marked his comeback with a goal for the ideal start just four minutes in before debutant Luca Williams-Barnett doubled the lead midway through the first half.

We showed no signs of slowing up after the break, Yusuf Akhamrich - employed as a striker - extending our advantage nine minutes after the restart and Miracle Adewole and substitute Ellis Lehane hitting a quick-fire double in two second-half minutes to put us firmly in control.

Joseph Barough's 25-yard free-kick grabbed a consolation for the Royals in the final quarter but Lehane showed great composure to restore our five-goal lead with a minute remaining and round off the win to record our first victory in three Under-18 Premier League games.

Following a four-week spell without a competitive fixture, coach Stuart Lewis handed a debut to Under-15 forward Williams-Barnett and a first league appearance at this level for goalkeeper Charlie Warren - in for the injured Carey Bloedorn, with fellow goalkeeper Elliot Krasniqi named among the substitutes after his own lengthy injury lay-off - as we came firing out of the blocks to really take the game to bottom side Reading.

Led superbly by skipper Moore, playing his first competitive game since recovering from a recent injury, our hard work on the training pitch showed as our intensity in the press led to the opener. Leo Black initially robbed the ball in midfield before playing in Adewole whose dangerous low cross was nicely swept home by Moore from close range. As we pressed on looking to extend our advantage, good chances came and went – a theme which crept in throughout the contest – as Adewole’s volley from a deep free-kick rattled the crossbar on 14 minutes.

The Royals did pose a dangerous counter-attacking threat as Black and the resolute Malachi Hardy were forced into last-ditch blocks to divert good chances wide to keep us ahead midway through the first period until Williams-Barnett gave us a deserved two-goal lead in the 26th minute. Centre-back Hardy started the move, showing great composure to receive and turn in midfield, as he found Akhamrich who spread it wide to Maeson King whose excellent low, driven cross found the onrushing winger to mark his debut at this level with a goal.

Much like the first period, we started the second with great intensity but, once again, converting chances continued to be our biggest issue as Callum Olusesi and Williams-Barnett squandered good chances minutes after the restart before the latter rattled the crossbar with a shot on the angle on 50 minutes. But, just four minutes later, we finally had the third goal that had eluded us up until that stage. Some intricate first-touch play between Han Willhoft-King and Adewole found Akhamrich in space who steered in a first-time finish from eight yards out. In the 65th minute, Adewole again saw an attempt rattle the underside of the bar and somehow bounce out as Williams-Barnett’s header from the follow up was well-saved by Reading goalkeeper Harrison Rhone.

Despite our lead, we made an attacking change five minutes later as striker Lehane replaced midfielder Olusesi, with the young striker almost making an immediate impact with his first few touches but his shot was parried just wide. Then, on 72 minutes, Adewole finally got his just rewards by getting on the scoresheet, capitalising on some good work from his opposite winger Williams-Barnett to roll the ball into an empty net.

Lehane made it five in a similar fashion just two minutes later. Some good combination play down the right flank between Akhamrich and Adewole fashioned a chance for Moore, whose attempt was tipped onto the crossbar, before King’s headed rebound was parried to the substitute who applied the finish from close range. With just under 15 minutes left, Reading’s Barough got one back for his side with a powerful, dipping free-kick from 25 yards out which bounced just in front of Warren. But Lehane arguably saved the best until last to restore our advantage one minute from time, the energetic striker spinning away from one defender on halfway, knocking it around the last man before rounding the keeper and calmly putting it away to cap an impressive team performance at Bearwood Park.

Some of our final third play and goals were excellent.

Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis

Reflecting on the performance, Under-18s Coach Stuart said: "It was a good result. We're disappointed to concede a goal, we challenged the group to keep a clean sheet at half-time but some of our final third play and goals were excellent. We probably could've scored more and been a bit more clinical but today we've had an Under-15 player start the game and two Under-16s so I was really pleased with their performances and some of the overall play was really good. 

"After a long break, it was a good start to the game - Mikey even spoke about starting the game on the front-foot in the pre-match huddle and we did that. Luca on debut was outstanding, especially some of his final third work and Ellis off the bench scored two good goals - his last was an outstanding individual goal.

"We've also had a few players away on international duty, it's a really proud moment for them as individuals and their families and also for us as staff. It shows the work that's being done in the Academy and I'm really pleased for them. It's also important they come back to carry on that form and performances but it's such a good moment for them. It's now important that we carry on this performance and the way we've been training into next week against Fulham."

Reading 1-6 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Warren; Black, Hardy (Egan-Riley 63), Chaplin, King (Logan 77); Willhoft-King, Olusesi (Lehane 70), Moore (c); Adewole, Akhamrich (Orr 77), Williams-Barnett. Substitute (not used): Krasniqi.