Reading U16 Boys too good for Oxford (again)
The elephant in the room...
This week the boys were introduced to the concept of "the elephant in the room". This was essentially going to be the same team we beat 9-2 a fortnight ago and clearly we didn’t want to go into this game being complacent or thinking it was going to be easy. After a team talk focussing on not only a professional approach but also on delivering a high level of individual quality to make sure ball speed was high and commitment was strong, the match started in the Autumn sunshine which was a relief after the overnight downpours. There was also evidence of Autumn on the playing surface as recently fallen leaves caused a bit of a distraction but not as much as the similar coloured shirts, with Reading playing in Navy to Oxford’s usual Royal blue.
It seems odd to say it but Reading didn’t start as well as they did in the last match although it wasn’t as bad as it sounds as Fred Newbold opening the scoring in the 2nd minute (rather than the 1st). The ball was worked to him near the penalty spot, in space, where he calmly rounded the keeper and slotted in from the right hand side. This was a good settler of a goal as the expectation was that Oxford would play defensively and would be tricky to break down. The opening goal was closely followed by Fred Newbold’s second in the 5th minute when Sam Armitage found him with an upright reverse stick cross and Fred again, this time at the left side of the goal, showed great composure 8 yards out to lift the ball high over the advancing keeper and beyond Nat Majakas’ despairing shoulder height lunge to score his second.
Two goals to the good, the boys lost a little concentration and allowed Oxford to gain some momentum with players not closed down in midfield and allowed to carry the ball forward close to the D. One such run led to a shooting opportunity and a near post shot was squeezed home past Henry Saxby. Lesson learned, hopefully.
Oxford were clearly proving much more of a test than in the previous match and the Reading team had to regroup mentally to regain some control. This happened in the 17th minute when Sam Armitage forced a mistake in midfield to break the defensive line quickly and create a two-on-one situation with Cameron Ellis, who moved smartly to be found at the top of the D and similar to Fred earlier, cooly rounded the keeper to slot home from the right hand side of the goal.
The game then entered a ‘bitty’ phase, with a number of mis-traps and execution errors resulting in exchanges of possession. Reading could have extended their lead after a run and cross from the right by Sam Armitage hit Cameron Ellis’s foot as he tried to control the ball and even though he slotted home under the keeper the goal was correctly not awarded. Additionally, Angus Haigh and Freddy Linzee-Gordon were not in the home umpire’s good books as they were accused of deliberately breaking down play, with Angus in particular just about managing to avoid a spell on the naughty step.
Ollie Sandell at left back and Nathan Hudson at right back were making inroads down the flanks to really push Oxford back and with Toby Pratt and Tom Wright exhibiting calmness at the back the Reading goal was never really in any further danger, although the threat of a break was always present.
In truth, this spell was a result of Reading not moving the ball on quickly enough and the quality dropping away, which the half time team talk addressed. Work rate to close down the Oxford midfield sooner was also required to apply pressure on the ball carrier and force errors. Henry Saxby in goal had not had a great deal to do but had been called upon a few too many times to manage situations which was not part of the strategy.
As the final scoreline attests, the half time talk worked well and the game was put beyond Oxford by the 41st minute with two goals in quick succession. Archie Sweeting opened the scoring for the half after 5 minutes with a driving run across the top of the D from right to left allowing him to unleash an upright reverse shot past the keeper to make it 4-1, which was closely followed by Fred Newbold completing his second hat-trick in the 6th minute of the half. Both goals had some stunning and incisive build up play through midfield that cut the defence to shreds.
With the game won, Reading started to boss the midfield with Freddy Linzee-Gordon playing a holding role to Angus Haigh’s driving runs when picking up second phased possession. A break in the inside right channel allowed Angus to follow in on his own saved shot to roll the ball under the keeper on the reverse side to make it 6-1 and shortly after this, another dribble into the top of the D led to Angus’ ankle getting hooked by an unfortunate defender and the resultant penalty stroke was despatched by Angus himself with aplomb to make it 7-1 to Reading.
Movement was still excellent at this point, with the forward line rotating and causing all manner of problems for the defence. The final goal came in the 65th minute from Cameron Ellis, bagging his second through not using an excellent lead across the goal from Fred Newbold to round the keeper and whilst almost running the ball off the baseline managing to squeeze in a reverse side shot whilst landing on his nose from a very narrow angle.
It was then a matter of seeing the game out and despite a very late green card for Archie Sweeting there was no further addition to the score.
All in all there were many positives to take from the match. Game balance and management was good and there were big strides taken in the continued integration of the new players as well as what others bring to the team. Quality was also good in the most part and although there were a few unforced errors the boys played as a solid unit to cover them.
There are still things to work on with the group but there are promising signs that they are beginning to play with confidence in each other. It was also good to see Toby Robinson along to support the team in preparation for his return to action in the cage next week after long term injury. Next up are Amersham and Chalfont and Toby isn’t the only one champing at the bit for the next match.