Reading City have gone viral in recent weeks for the quality of their matchday food offerings but if the recent displays of their talented Under 18 side are anything to go by then they will soon be just as well known for the quality of their Academy.
Having won through some five rounds of the FA Youth Cup to reach the Second Round proper for the first time in club history, the young Cityzens faced the Academy side of Oxford United on Friday night in front of an enthusiastic club record crowd of 622.
And the youngsters did the club and their supporters proud, taking the tie to the very death against the best young talent the EFL League One side could offer in an open and attractive game which was only settled at the death.
The drama unfolded early in this encounter. After a cagey start the visitors earned a penalty as Oxford’s lively forward Gatlin O’Donkor was tripped in the area by City’s George Day. Goalkeeper Archie Walker had kept four clean sheets in five Youth Cup outings this season however and he made a thrilling save from Elijah Cole’s penalty, pushing the ball onto the post.
Oxford were undeterred though and kept probing. With just over ten minutes left in the half they opened the scoring. The impressive Ben Watt was fouled on the byline and the teasing free-kick was met by an emphatic header from Clinton Nosakhare. Thereafter City worked hard to keep a foot-hold in a cup tie which exploded into life in its final quarter.
Jenyo Balogun – the penalty-taking hero of the First Round tie with Gosport – was at it again. City won a free kick with a little under twenty minutes to go and the enterprising forward sent a firm low effort underneath the diving U’s keeper Eddie Brearey to send the record crowd potty.
The enthusiastic spectators were silenced however barely three minutes later. Walker was unable to hold on to a shot which came from outside the area and O’Donkor reacted first to Stan home the spinning ball. Back came City after 83 minutes though as Balogun doubled his tally with a sensational swerving effort which crept inside the far post. Pandemonium once again.
There was however to be a cruel twist. In the final minute of the ninety City were unable to clear a corner. The ball was recycled to the far post where O’Donkor struck a first time effort in off the upright to seal a Round 3 varsity clash for the U’s at Oxford United.