Norwich City’s Under-18s won their opening game of 2019 2-1 against Reading at Colney with goals coming from Andrew Omobamidele and Finlay Barnes.
The Under-18s starting line-up saw a lot of changes from the side which faced Port Vale in the FA Youth cup last time out.
Daniel Barden replaced Sam Blair in goal, with Blair taking a place on the bench for the Canaries. Atli Barkarson remained at left-back, although right-back Jordan Thomas was not involved with Aaron Ekumah coming in. Louis Lomas was replaced by Ante Berkeley and he partnered Andrew Omobamidele at centre-back.
There were more changes to the midfield; Saul Milovanovic, Ethen Vaughan and Josh Giurgi were all not included in the starting XI, and the latter was the only one included in the matchday squad and he was replaced by Spencer Keller. Captain Zac Dronfield remained in the City side, and took up a role in the central midfield position. Denzelle Olopade and Matthew Richardson replaced Milovanovic and Vaughan whilst Adam Idah was replaced by Kole Lambert.
Reading got the game underway at Colney, but it was City who started the better of the two sides. Keller was a constant menace throughout the opening stages. Just two minutes in, the forward found some space on the left before sending a teasing cross into the Reading box, but it was met by the hands of Myles Roberts in the Royals’ goal.
Eight minutes in and the visitors started to settle on the ball, and began to push City back. Reading were awarded an in-direct free-kick inside the City box, but the following free kick was laid back to Ollie Pendlebury whose shot was blasted over the City bar.
With 20 minutes gone, Reading went close to taking the lead. Dejan Tetek managed to get onto the end of a cross from the left before placing the ball to the right of Barden. The ball smashed against the outside of the post and ran out for a goal kick.
City responded instantly to Reading’s chance by going a goal up. At the other end of the pitch, Barkarson’s curling free-kick from the right of the box was sent to the back post for Omobamidele to head home and score City's first goal of 2019 and put the home side up at Colney.
Omobamidele nearly got a second five minutes later, but his powerful header from Barkarson’s cross meant Roberts was called into action with an outstanding fingertip save to his left, pushing the ball round the post to keep City just the one goal ahead.
City were dominating possession, and were searching for that second goal. Ekumah drove forward with the ball on the right 37 minutes in, but his effort just inside the penalty area was weak and the Reading keeper collected with ease.
Three minutes later Lambert was sent through on goal following a fine slick pass, however the striker’s effort was caught by Roberts in the Reading goal in what was to be the last action of the first half.
Reading were the better side in the opening five minutes of the second-half, and were unlucky not to find an equaliser four minutes in. Tetek’s deflected effort from a tight angle forced Barden into a smart stop.
Despite the positive Reading start, City nearly doubled their lead 55 minutes into the game. Lambert took the ball past a Reading defender before smashing it towards the goal; however the ball struck the top right of the side netting.
City started to control the second-half and force Reading back in their own half. City’s pressure was rewarded with 25 minutes to go. Barnes got onto the end of a loose ball on the edge of the Reading area before placing the ball past Roberts and into the bottom left corner to give City a two goal cushion.
Barkarson and Lamberts went close straight after the City goal, with City looking rampant every time they went forward.
Reading was forced to play with 10 men with 15 minutes remaining after a Royals defender brought down Spencer Keller who was through on goal. However, despite being down to 10 players, Reading pulled a goal back with just under 10 minutes remaining, after a Shamar Moore strike from a tight angle was deflected before rolling into the back of the net.
Reading pushed City back in the latter stages of the game but were unable to find a way past City’s rigid defence.
City Starting XI: Daniel Barden, Aaron Ekumah, Atli Barkarson, Andrew Omobamidele, Ante Berkeley, Matthew Richardson, Finlay Barnes (Arash Ahmadi 78), Zac Dronfield ©, Spencer Keller, Kole Lambert (Tyrese Omotoye 72), Denzelle Olopade (Josh Giurgi 72)
Unused Subs: Eddie Jackson, Sam Blair (GK)