Will Keane stole the show when United engineered a 3-1 scoreline against Reading on Adams Park in an U21 edition of Monday Night Football. This means United, on 19 points, climb past the Royals on 18, and start approaching the table summit, still with far less games played than basically all the other sides in the U21 league.
Uneventful start, but Reading come knocking on the door
Despite United’s convincing victory, the first chance of the game fell to Reading, after a very bright conter-attacking opportunity following a sloppy Donald Love – for the occasion at centre midfield – pass in the middle of the park. Fortunately, Ro-Shaun Williams and Joel Pereira were able to put the Royals attacker under enough pressure to escape through a corner kick.
United open the score
Around the 25-minute mark, United managed to build some crucial momentum. Intially, Weir displayed some neat footwork inside Reading’s box, but didn’t manage to pull off a proper finish, but the home side struggled to clear the ball, which later on ended up at Weir’s feet again. Varela opened up some space with a run off the ball, Weir found birthday boy Will Keane, who turned away one defender and was brought down by another, to be rewarded with a spot-kick. The Keane twin still at United’s books made no mistakes and slotted it into the back of the net, with the ball taking a deflection off Simon Moore’s feet on its way in.
A striker with his scoring boots on
Only a few minutes later, United extended the lead, with Keane in the limelight as well. Matty Willock took on the Reading defence, pulled the trigger, and United’s number nine turned up at the right place in the right time, making the ball deflect out of the keeper’s neach and sneak inside the near post, to make it 2-0. «I knew it was my goal, as it deflected off my knee», was Keane’s take on the situation after the match.
Warren Joyce’ side even was on the verge of 3-0 only two minutes later, when James Weir ran through the entire Reading defence, but yet again he was let down by an inadequate finish.
After an even opening of the game, United looked a bit unplayable at this point of the game, catching the hosts off guard on a regular basis, punishing them relentlessly on two occasions as well.
As the first half was drawing to a close, Reading got a free-kick in a dangerous position. Tarique Fosu made a decent strike on the ball, but Joel Pereira turned up at work and got his glove on it.
Keane with hat-trick warning flare
There were only played four minutes of the second half when Keane aimed for the hat-trick, but unfortunately the header on Varela’s accurate cross went just wide of the near post, and additionally he was correctly ruled offside. There was, however, more to come form United’s front man.
An hour into the game, James Weir was on the front foot in Reading’s box, picked out Joshua Harrop, who got hacked down inside the box. Subsequently, Will Keane didn’t turn down the invitation for a hat-trick, sending Moore the one way and the ball the other from the spot.
Fifteen minutes from time, Reading had a chance to pull one back, when Tarique Fosu took on the United defence. Williams failed to pick up the substitute Cardwell, who got played trough, but the attacker wasn’t able to convert the opportunity.
Joshua Harrop displays why he’s not a striker
United could’ve actually been three and four nil up, thanks to Joshua Harrop alone, as he made a couple of runs on the ball into the box, but the former United U18 player needs to work his finishing, despite some great close control and pace to set himself up.
Reading pull one back
Harrop might actually learn a thing or two from Tarique Fosu, who was played one-on-one with Joel Pereira five minutes from time. The Reading academy product tucked it composedly past United’s shot-stopper to narrow the gap between the sides.
Nine points behind, but…
However, United’s lead was never under serious threat, and as the fourth win on the trot is a fact, United are now nine points behind U21 league leaders Sunderland. A significant difference, however, is the Black Cats having played twelve games, meaning United having four games in hand.
United: Pereira – Varela, Fosu-Mensah, Williams, Riley – Love, Willock, Redmond, Weir (Warren 75) – Harrop – W. Keane
Subs: O’Hara, Rathbone, Mitchell, Warren, Gribbin
Goalscorers: W. Keane 26, 29, 61
Reading: Moore – Long, Osho, Hyam, Griffin – Stacey, Fernandez, Kuhl, Fosu – Kelly (Novakovic 64)– Liburd (Cardwell 64)
Subs: Owusu, Ward, Shaughnessy, Novakovic, Cardwell
Goalscorers: Fosu 85