Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A defeat and a couple of injuries: welcome back, competitive fixtures, how we've missed you

Monday evening saw us start as we hopefully don't mean to go on, the U21s slipping to a 4-2 defeat to Reading as two players were added to the injury list.

In the company of a whole host of scouts (as well as Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth, Royals first-teamers Sean Morrison and Nick Blackman, manager Nigel Adkins and former owner John Madejski), I'd been looking forward to assessing Olivier Kemen on his competitive debut. But the French teenager, until Loic Remy's arrival our only summer signing, lasted only 38 minutes before pulling up with what looked like a hamstring injury. Prior to that, he'd proven himself practically indistinguishable from Master T, with whom he was beginning to form a tough-tackling (sometimes overzealously so) and athletic central midfield.

The game got off to an explosive start, with two goals apiece in the opening quarter. Master T's spot-kick and 16-year-old debutant Adam Armstrong's slotted finish were sandwiched by a pair of sumptuous strikes from Gozie Ugwu. Armstrong was involved in some neat interplay with Adam Campbell, who will have caught the attention of a few onlooking scouts (from Carlisle, perhaps) in the first half in particular with some darting runs and neat lay-offs, before fading from view in the second period. The diminutive strikeforce did leave us vulnerable at Reading corners, though.

We came out after the interval with some purpose, but by the time Kemen's replacement Brandon Miele was himself forced to limp off, the Royals had seized control. Jak Alnwick showed some good handling in catching a couple of powerful drives cleanly, and our defenders' willingness to prostrate themselves in the line of fire suggested time spent in training with Saylor. But we were struggling to cope with our hosts' trio of rangy, pacy forwards Ogwu, Dominic Samuel and Jordan Obita, and though chances still continued to come our way, it was little surprise when Reading retook the lead through Lawson D'Ath. Samuel then added a fourth as we were caught out pressing for an equaliser in stoppage time.

For Master T, what a difference a year makes. Last season he featured in a number of first-team games, sometimes as a starter, and yet last night he failed to stamp his authority on an admittedly fluid frontline in the U21 league. In the second half, without Kemen for company, he too often missed tackles or was nowhere to be seen as Royals forwards advanced into the space between our midfield and defence. It was telling that, after emerging for the second period, he had to send manager Peter Beardsley back to the dressing room to fetch his captain's armband...

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