After a winless couple of games this was just the tonic Simon Davies’ EDS team needed. It was deserved too. A relatively uneventful first half made way for a confident, composed second half performance, decorated with a couple of stunning strikes from Ash Smith-Brown and Aleix Garcia. Bersant Celina added gloss to the scoreline late on to complete an excellent comeback after Reading had initially taken the lead just past the hour mark. City could have been in front long before that, Bersant Celina missing the chance of the first half. A bustling drive from Sinan Bytyqi had taken him into the area on the right, and he was tripped as he cut across the defender. The ref pointed to the spot, but the usually reliable Celina poorly struck the resulting penalty straight at the keeper. There was a few other chances too, Glendon stinging the keeper’s hands with a shot that was rifling towards the top corner, and Celina had a couple of snapshots that were deflected clear and over.
Reading had a few fleeting attacks of their own in the first half – Adarabioyo used all of his 6’5 frame to gallop back and make a vital a goal-saving challenge as Reading had broke through on goal. The Royals had a goal correctly ruled out too, the linesman flagged as their forward had just gone too soon before he headed home. It didn’t matter though as they were in front barely fifteen minutes into the second half. Adarabioyo was far too casual in possession, Reading broke and Cardwell turned Charlie Oliver too easily before firing past Angus Gunn. A sucker punch, but it was a lesson learned after a careless spell, and to City’s credit, the fight-back was immediate. Ash Smith-Brown scored a screamer from outside the area after he had cut in from the left following some lovely work between Celina and Barker. Barely two minutes later and City were in front, and it was some goal. Aleix Garcia did his best Yeboah impression, thundering home an absolutely stunning volley into the top right hand corner from twenty-five yards. Majestic, and it was deserved for another highly promising performance.
It was left to Bersant Celina to wrap it up and grab the third. Rodney Kongolo continued his own impressive recent form with a bulldozing run from deep that took him past two challenges, before he perfectly picked out the Kosovan in the middle who finished clinically. There could have been more as City found their stride. Barker had one ruled out for offside after he had beautifully dinked a ball over the keeper, though it appeared harsh with the young winger looking level. Celina impudently tried to lob Reading’s keeper too from barely ten yards out, only to see the shot land on the roof of the net, but it finished 3-1, and it was a strong result and much deserved after a few ‘nearly’ performances of late. Kongolo was impressive. He’s recently started to excel for the u18s, adding a real forceful attacking drive to his game and he showcased this again in a complete midfield performance. He was ably helped by Aleix Garcia who is growing into English football perfectly. He looks strong, composed and there’s a style and assuredness to his game that marks him out as an interesting prospect – one that perhaps a certain Spanish coach would find pretty intriguing.
Celina, though perhaps a little wasteful for his own high standards, was once again at very least effective. As he always is. It’s a nice habit to have, and he was involved in one goal and he scored another, despite starting in the unfamiliar role of lone striker. Glendon shuttled about with purpose as City won the midfield battle, and there were signs of the last season’s Brandon Barker returning as he continues to find his feet and confidence again after a difficult couple of months. He beat his man more or less every time, showcasing his exceptional technique, and with some better movement around him he could’ve had an assist or two. He should have had a goal as well, searing forward and lifting coolly over the keeper only to have it wrongly ruled out for offside. After his brief forays in the middle, Bytyqi started out on the right, and he had solid game. Not outstanding, but encouraging at least as he drove at Reading with dynamism and persistence whenever he got the opportunity. After such a lengthy spell out on the sidelines, there’s a long way to go, but the early signs are promising. Smith-Brown had one of his best performances of the season at left-back. Decisive in the tackle, and vibrant in attack, the young England defender was a bright, purposeful presence on the left and his goal was just rewards for a top-class display.
Horsfield over at right-back was decent too, bursting forward a few times as he linked up well with Bytyqi. It’s a trait of his that’s come to the fore recently and it’s most welcome. Adarabioyo had a mixed bag of a game. At times, excellent, totally in control, and at others far too slack in possession. From the confusing to the sublime within moments. His talent is clear however, and consistency will surely come. Oliver had a quiet day alongside him, though he wouldn’t have been pleased with his role in their goal as he was turned too easily. Gunn was a little sloppy in possession, but then again not many keepers are expected to pass goal kicks out regardless of the options available to him like City’s are at youth level. This is often City’s undoing at the EDS level, as teams are wise to it and press highly and it results in a few golden opportunities per game being conceded. It’s high-risk, but there is a bigger picture at play and the club are right to enforce it as they look to ensure their prospects are totally and utterly at ease with the ball at their feet at all times. It will cause problems every now and then, but the reasoning is clear, and for now it will stay. Next up for the EDS is a trip to Bolton on Tuesday night for the Senior Cup, and after that the u18s play on Wednesday in the mini-derby at the CFA.