Norwich City's Under-23s narrowly lost against Reading at Hogwood Park in a seven goal thriller in the Premier League 2.
Jon McCracken came back into the City side after missing their last game against Sunderland at Colney, replacing senior goalkeeper Michael McGovern.
Ethen Vaughan and Bilal Kamal came in at the full-back positions and replaced Grant Hanley and Jordan Thomas. The rest of the back four was made up of Timi Odusina and Ciaren Jones who started at centre-back.
Alfie Payne and Tom Scully remained in the central midfield positons, as did Josh Coley who started on the left-hand side of midfield. Saul Milovanovic was replaced by Isak Thorvaldsson on the right, with City setting up with four across the midfield.
City’s goal scorer against Sunderland Ant Spyrou kept his place in the starting line-up after scoring a goal in each of his last two games. Spyrou was partnered with Adam Idah, who comes back into the starting eleven after joining up with the Under-18s as part of their FA Youth Cup team in December.
The home side were dominating large portions of the opening stages, however due to Reading’s high line, Spyrou and Idah were nearly played through on goal on a number of occasions. However the long-balls from the City midfield ran out to the goalkeeper.
Eight minutes in Eddie Howe dribbled past Kamal and Coley before finding a bit of space to curl a cross to the back post. Odusina was on his toes and managed to head the ball out for a corner, with the following corner caught by McCracken.
Reading kept up the pressure on the Canaries as Josh Barrett picked up a loose ball mid-way in the City half. The midfielder weaved his way behind the Norwich defence but his shot from a tight angle didn’t trouble McCracken and went out for a goal kick. Two minutes later Barrett was at the thick of things again, this time his low cross was easily swept up by the Norwich stopper.
City started to find a way into the game and had their first shot just over 15 minutes in, with Coley’s effort from the edge of the box just drifting wide of the Royals’ goal. Five minutes later and Spyrou had City’s first shot on target, however it was blocked by Jokull Andresson.
Twenty five minutes in and Spyrou put City ahead. A cross from the left lead to a scramble in the box which then saw the ball toe poked into the empty net by Spyrou who netted for his third straight game.
With 15 minutes to go in the first half City started to take control of the game. First Coley saw his back post header cleared off the line before Spyrou’s shot from inside the box was well saved by Andresson down to the keepers left.
The home side equalised with just less than 10 first half minutes remaining. Ryan East picked up a loose ball on the edge of the City area before sending it into the top left-hand corner giving McCracken no chance.
Despite conceding City finished the half much stronger than the home side, as Coley first saw a replica of his earlier header saved by the Reading keeper then just one minute later the midfielder saw his shot from the right hit the side netting.
Reading went ahead just six minutes into the second half. Conor Lawless picked up the ball in the City penalty area before spinning and finishing in the far right corner. Moments later Reading had another shot towards goal, but this time Kamal made a crucial block.
With 30 minutes remaining the home side went even further ahead. Howe used his pace to beat three City players on the right hand side before pulling the ball back to Jack Nolan who drove the ball past McCracken.
City managed to get into the Reading box after a good passing move, but a scramble in the area lead to Cameron Green clearing the ball just before Spyrou could get his shot away.
Five minutes later Reading got their fourth goal of the afternoon. Barrett managed to squeeze the ball in from a tight angle with a clever finish to give the home side a three goal cushion.
However City didn’t fold and the players kept their heads up. Payne pressured from deep and his work rate was very nearly rewarded after his tackle allowed him to tee the ball up for himself before seeing his effort caught by Andresson.
With five minutes to go and the game seemingly out of sight, the Canaries scored a quick double. Spyrou got the first after taking a touch past a Reading defender in the box before rifling past Andresson.
One minute later Idah’s low strike from distance managed to find its way into the bottom corner and pull the game back within touching distance for the Canaries. However, it was too late for City and the away side fell at the final hurdle.
City Starting XI: McCracken; Vaughan, Kamal, Odusina (c), Jones, Payne, Thorvaldsson, Scully, Spyrou, Idah, Coley (Dronfield, 80)
Unused Subs: Omobamidele, Johnson (GK), Barkarson, Keller