ALEXANDER Tettey got a valuable 60 minutes under his belt as Norwich City’s Under-21s were beaten 1-0 after a last-gasp Reading goal at Colney Training Centre on Monday afternoon.
The Norwegian midfielder has been sidelined for seven weeks with a knee injury, but after a brief substitute appearance for the first-team against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, he came through an hour unscathed in the Barclays Under-21s Premier League clash.
Pierce Sweeney struck in stoppage time for the Royals to settle a close match – the fourth meeting between the two sides this season - and extend their lead at the top of Group Two.
Coach Scott Marshall said after the final whistle: “A last-minute goal is difficult to take. It’s hard to believe it right now and I’m sure the boys will be feeling the same.
“We worked really hard for 89 minutes, and then didn’t work at a corner. Set-pieces are crucial to the game now, and we just didn’t organise it quickly enough.
“For most of the game the character was pleasing – they kept us under pressure, but we battled away and scrapped and I thought we’d see it out to be honest. It’s a learning curve.”
The Canaries started brightly in the game with Jamar Loza and Rod Young going close in quick succession, before Tettey himself saw a half-volley from the edge of the box fly wide.
Reading broke through for the first time on 12 minutes when Gozie Ugwu beat the offside trap, but Jed Steer was off his line quickly and made the save, moments before Michael Clunan had a shot deflected to safety up the other end.
The game settled into a rhythm and its next chance went to the visitors on the half hour – Nick Arnold played a fine ball to Dominic Samuel, with Steer responding as he made the save low to his left.
Three minutes before half-time, Young beat two Royals’ defenders on the right before driving a shot that Jon Henly parried, before Jake Taylor forced another save from Steer just before the whistle.
HALF-TIME: NORWICH CITY 0-0 READING
The visitors were quicker out of the blocks after the break and Ramil Sheriff produced a vital tackle to deny Nick Arnold as City struggled to hold down possession in the opposition’s half.
Although Reading were having more of the play, they found clear chances difficult to come by – Taylor broke free in the area on 65 minutes, but his reverse ball didn’t find a team-mate and Norwich managed to avert the danger.
The Canaries could have taken the lead with 15 minutes left on the clock as Loza found space in the right channel, but the striker was indecisive, eventually closed down and laid the ball off to Olumide Durojaiye, whose effort lacked composure and sailed over the bar.
The game looked to be heading for a stalemate before Reading struck in added time – substitute Uche Ikpeazu did well to win a corner, and after a dangerous delivery into the box, central defender Pierce Sweeney was on hand to slam the ball home.
Marshall added: “We’ll be fine – we’ll get back to it tomorrow. It should hurt though. I’ll be disappointed if it didn’t hurt, and they’ve got to get used to that as well. This should spur them on to not feel like this again.”
FULL-TIME: NORWICH CITY 0-1 READING
GOAL: Sweeney (90)
NORWICH CITY: Steer; McNeil, Sheriff (c), Gafaiti, Toffolo (Barker 60); Young (Randall 73), Durojaiye, Tettey (Hodd 60), Browne; Clunan; Loza. Subs not used: Matthews (GK), Lokko.
READING: Henly; Keown, Sweeney, Cooper, Webb; Arnold, Tshibola (Tanner 71), Partridge, Taylor (c); Ugwu, Samuel (Ikpeazu 87). Subs not used: Edwards, Lincoln (GK), Kelly.