Norwich City Under-18s have carried their outstanding form over to the U18s Premier League, after beating Reading 3-5 on Saturday afternoon, giving them a well-deserved three points.
The game started as a slightly cagey affair, with both teams playing high-intensity football, leaving neither team able to enjoy possession long enough to get comfortable on it. City were playing the better game, but just couldn’t find a chance on goal to test the Royals early, regardless the Canaries looked content as Reading could barely get out of their own half.
Reading made the first real mistake when they fouled Jon Rowe on the edge of their box. The quick-feet forward was looking confident to make something of the situation, before being swept out by the defence, allowing Tom Dickson-Peters to step up and have a crack on goal by the 20th minute.
A well taken free-kick just painfully ricocheted off the post, giving Reading a lifeline before a deliberate - and possibly unnecessary - handball bought the home side straight back into the danger-zone. Dickson-Peters remained relentless, wanting to take the penalty and recover from the slightly askew free-kick. A composed strike straight to the bottom right corner and out of the ‘keepers reach saw City go one up in the 22nd minute. A great way to start for the Canaries, with the advantage sure to settle them down in the game.
The same couldn’t be said for Reading, who conceded another penalty just ten minutes later. Rowe found himself on a sublime run into the 18-yard box once again, as a Reading shirt followed. The defender tried to push Rowe and the ball out of play, but Rowe wasn’t having it, outdoing his opponent before being brought down by a seemingly spiteful tackle from behind.
Tyrese Omotoye fancied his chances for the second penalty, a decision some might say is a risky choice, especially with Dickson-Peters being a comfortable specialist on the spot. Any doubt was surely silenced when the forward buried his effort in the bottom-left corner, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way entirely.
It seemed the second penalty switched on the Royals, as opposed to switching them off as the first did. A quick answer from Reading saw an easy run into the box beat many City defenders, with the resultant effort nestling to the back of the net. U18s ‘keeper Sam Blair wasn’t happy with the conceded goal, encouraging his teammates to continue with the hard-working attitude they boasted in the first 20 minutes.
A fortified defence and a sharp attack kept Reading rocking until the end of the first-half, leaving just 45 minutes for the Canaries to maintain the goal advantage, and go home with all three points.
The second-half began, and no one could foresee the next 20 minutes. City began the half in fashion by catching Reading off the break, a quick lookup meant Dronfield could pick out Rowe, who took the ball in his stride. Quick feet and wonderful flair ended with a shot on the edge of the box, taking a deflection before finding its way to the far corner in the home side’s net once more.
It didn’t stay at 3-1 for long though, yet another quick response from Reading saw a player brought down in the City box by a trailing leg, the referee pointed straight to the spot, throwing the Royals a lifesaver. Josh Hewitt stepped up and had his crack on goal. Blair dived the right way, but his fingertips weren’t enough to divert the direction of the ball, closing the gap in goals ever so slightly.
City seemed motivated by conceding, it appeared as if it gave them the burning desire to go back to the kick-off spot and go again harder than before to recover the lead they had minutes prior. This suspicion was confirmed when Omotoye found the back of the net again, less than a minute after City conceded the penalty.
In a moment of madness, what harm was another two goals? A simple, yet effective lay off in Reading’s favour by Imari Samuels saw Claudio Osorio easily tap one past Blair, taking it back to 4-3. Tensions were building, as both teams were pushing each other to their absolute limits, but the Canaries seemed the stronger of the two.
A fast-paced run down the line by Harry Pitcher on the stroke of the 70th minute saw the right-back whip in a cross to the box of blue and yellow shirts, only to be cleared hastily by the now-determined Reading defence. The ball fell short outside the box and, before bouncing a single time, was met by the boot of Dronfield, who volleyed it with some serious intent. The effort went as planned, as the ball flew straight into the top corner, with no ‘keeper saving the effort.
An intense 20 minutes left on the clock saw each team trying their hardest to find one more goal. For City another goal would certainly bag the three points, meanwhile for Reading a goal would give them all the motivation in the world to go out and find that equaliser.
Unfortunately for Reading, City's defence was lock-and-key, shutting out any effort until the referee blew the final whistle, giving the Canaries a thoroughly deserved three points to take back home.
Reading U18s: Boyce-Clarke, Lawless, Dorsett, Abby, Samuels (Lambert, 81), Hewitt, Nevers, Pendlebury, McGiff, Osorio, Anderson (Neves, 61)
Subs not used: Collins, Hamilton
Goals: Nevers (40), Hewitt (64 pen), Osorio (67)
Bookings: Hewitt (38), Pendlebury (21)
Norwich City U18s: Blair, Pitcher, Stewart, Tomkinson, Warner, Brown, Giurgi (Springett, 46), Dronfield (c), Omotoye (Kamara, 66), Dickson-Peters, Rowe
Subs not used: Jackson, Roth-Pateman
Goals: Dickson-Peters (22 pen), Omotoye (38 pen, 65), Rowe (53), Dronfield (70)
Bookings: Springett (68), Dronfield (86)
Referee: Grzegorz Kornasiewicz
Kick-off time: 12:30pm
Venue: Bearwood Park Training Facility