A classic cup tie...
By Chris Armitage
... but we came out on the wrong end of the result
An action packed and close match between two good teams ended with Reading U16 boys on the wrong end of a 5-4 result.
Both sides could boast Futures Cup and Performance Centre players, which led to a highly competitive contest and would have been an excellent game to watch for any neutral.
Reading were a little scrappy in the first half, with connections not quite coming off and the ball not being passed to sticks, leading to players being caught ahead of the ball and the defence exposed. Braintree, packed with Felsted School players, rightly took advantage and exerted their style of play on the match early on with a high and aggressive press. Reading struggled with this and were 1-0 down very quickly after lack of concentration at the left side of the D led to an overload, and Henry Saxby being exposed in goal. Reading rode the storm and after substitutions after 10 minutes started to get back into the game and did well to come back from the early set back to get back to 1-1 though close range Cameron Ellis goal after 20 minutes. The game continued with action at both ends as Braintree let their foot off the gas, but as the half wore on they managed to build a 2 goal lead at half time through some messy play catching the Reading defence napping.
The second half started with Reading looking stronger, challenged in the half time team talk to play what effectively was a 35 minute cup final and to find a way back into the game through shortening the passing and building connections through midfield More organised they started to get the passing going which really started to cause Braintree problems, who began to give the ball away as Reading had done in the first half. The game became a tense affair with both sides probing for opportunities until Angus Haigh drove into the D from right midfield on 55 minutes to unleash a shot on goal to make it 3-2. This rocked Braintree's confidence a little and it was only 2 minutes later when another Angus Haigh drive from a similar location, with a less emphatic shot this time, managed to bobble through to find Cameron Ellis on the back post to make it 3-3.
With the momentum shifting towards Reading and Braintree starting to look weary, the advantage was pressed and Reading's 4th goal on 62 minutes was a classy finish again from Cameron Ellis to complete his hat-trick. Nathaniel Majakas disrupted the Braintree play in midfield and broke through midfield to put Cam in with space at the top right of the D, where he unleashed a ferocious shot (new stick and new trainers!) that hit the top corner of the right post and the inside of the left post to ricochet in at high speed. I may have got the memory of these goals the wrong way around in all the excitement.
With 8 minutes to go, Reading started to sit back a little rather than press the advantage which allowed Braintree to get back into the game. The equaliser came on 67 minutes when a 16 metre hit out was given away whilst substituting players and was closely followed by conceding a penalty corner in the last minute after repeatedly failing to clear the ball. This was converted, as is always the way!, so was a harsh lesson to take in the end.
The boys should take pride in their performance, however. They showed outstanding team spirit to come back from 3-1 down to lead the match and with a little better game management might have seen out the win.
Braintree were a quality opposition team, of a similar ability to Reading, with the thought afterwards that their school connections gave them a slight advantage as they play together more frequently, perhaps. Credit to them for getting the result as they just about shaded it in a very close match.