21/09/2015: Reading U21s 2-5 Saints U21s

Saints U21s moved to the top of the table with a 5-2 win over Reading at Wycombe. The first-half was incredible frenetic, with both sides really going for it. Saints took control in the second, tightening up and seeing the game out in a professional manner.

The first-half was played at an incredible tempo. Neither side let up for the entire 45 minutes. Saints moved the ball quickly and with purpose. The team attacked as a unit, and constantly troubled Reading at set pieces. Both sides left gaps at the back, making for a very open and entertaining game.

Harrison Reed opened the scoring as Saints brilliantly countered. The move came from Reading's corner. A poor clearance allowed Jake Hesketh an opportunity to strive forward. Ryan Seager was also involved, but it was Reed who completed the finish, peeling off to the right before shooting in off the post.

Reading quickly levelled. Rowan Liburd out-jumped Dom Gape at a corner. Just after that Seager tested the keeper with a rasping shot. The action briefly quietened down just after the 15 minute mark, but soon livened up again. Saints should have been awarded a penalty on 20 when a Reading player handballed it. Ryan Bertrand almost caught out Lewis Ward direct from the resulting corner. The ball went out for another corner, and this time Saints finally made the Royals pay. McQueen smashed the ball into the roof of the net after it had initial evaded everyone in the six yard box.

On 24 Saints made it 3-1. McQueen connected with a looping header from Gape's free-kick. Reading got back into almost immediately. Reed inadvertently turned the ball into his own net, unable to halt his momentum when running back attempting to cut out a cross. A few minutes later Liburd nearly headed in from a deep cross.

Seager almost nicked in on 32 after McQueen's initial effort was saved. Josh Sims then pulled the ball just wide of goal, before McQueen went close again on 35. Saints worked another great move on the break just before half-time, but Sims was unable to finish it.

After successfully coming through the first 45 Bertrand was replaced by Josh Debayo at the break. The action slowed down quite a bit during the second-half. Saints took a more patient approach, gaining greater control of the midfield. The visitors gave themselves a greater cushion on 46 when Hesketh popped in Sims' cross.

On 62 Liburd turned Will Wood 40 yards from goal, but blazed well over after driving towards the box. Hesketh shot over the bar after Seager had his 67th minute effort blocked. The former made amends a couple of minutes later, firing low into the corner from just outside the box. Saints were in complete control going into full-time. Martin Hunter's side had chances to extend their lead even further. The best opening of the last 15 minutes came on 76 when McQueen nearly curled the ball in with his left foot.

Hunter might not have been happy with how open Saints were in the first-half, but it sure made for great entertainment. Saints were fun to watch and incredibly effective going forward. The level of unity within the team was there for all to see. Everyone knew their role and performed it well. Ronald Koeman might not be interested in bringing these youngsters into the first team setup, but he would do well to emulate the style and principles they showed on this occasion.

Player Comments

Isted: Made a few decent saves

Mugabi: Tidy at the back. A few hit and hope balls, but passing generally ok

McCarthy: Strong in the air and solid at the back for the most part

Wood: Made a few errors, with Saints' back four too exposed in the first-half, but did a few good things

Bertrand: Made one horror tackle early on, but otherwise looked pretty sharp

Gape: Tenacious and good delivery from set pieces

Reed: Uncharacteristically sloppy on occasions, but bright in other spells. A bit unlucky with the own goal

McQueen: Great start to the season continues. Showed strength, guile and excellent end-product

Hesketh: Probably the best player on the pitch. Found space for himself constantly and creative on the ball

Sims: Used his pace to good effect. Direct and a good final ball

Seager: Movement in and around the box superb. Always getting in the right positions

Substitutes

Debayo: Passing sometimes let him down, but he did start the move for the fourth goal

Olomola: A deserved runout for a player who has been in very good form for the U18s recently

Isgrove: Only on the pitch for a couple of minutes


Match Details

Reading: Liburd (9) Reed OG (26)

Saints: Reed (7) McQueen (21) Seager (24) Hesketh (46, 69)

Reading line-up: Ward, Long, Hyam, Sweeney, Griffin, Semedo (Rinomhota 68), Shaughnessey, Kelly, Fosu, Liburd, Novakovich

Subs not used: Southward, Owusu, Fridjonsson, Husin

Saints line-up: Isted, Mugabi, McCarthy, Wood, Bertrand, Gape, Reed, McQueen, Hesketh, Sims, Seager

Subs not used: Lewis, Little