Norwich City U21s 0, Reading U21s 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Tettey pushed his first team claims ahead of Swansea's Premier League visit with a 60-minute run out in Easter Monday's development league defeat for Norwich City's U21s against Reading's U21s at Colney.
The Norwegian international turned in a composed display in central midfield as an over-age player after his late weekend cameo at Wigan following a six-week break to rest a knee complaint. Tettey was the only senior outfield player on duty for Scott Marshall's Norwich side who conceded a stoppage time winner despatched by Royals' Irish youth international Pierce Sweeney.
'It was good to see Alex back. He was physically great in there and he did well,' said Marshall. 'I am sure he was happy to get some football under his belt and he will be ready to go for the weekend. To lose in the last minute was a kick in the teeth and I am sure the boys will be hurting right now. We worked really hard for 89 minutes and then we didn't work at a corner. Set pieces are crucial to the game now and we just haven't marked as we should. For 89 minutes the character and the work rate was pleasing. We had to dig in and they kept us under pressure. We scrapped and battled and I thought we were going to see it out but a couple of little things just before the goal gave an inkling we were starting to tire, our concentration was starting to go and we lost a goal as a result, but it is a learning curve.'
Reading's late winner moved the Royals seven points clear of Marshall's young squad at the top of group two having played two games more, with only the table toppers progressing to end-of-season play-offs.
'We've had four games now against Reading at this level this season and they have all been similar,' he said. 'They are always organised, competitive and strong physically but I think we coped with it well enough and we had a good chance in the second half we didn't take to get ourselves in front, which probably would have been against the run of play if I am being honest.
'We just needed to show that determination which was disappointing. It should hurt and I would be disappointed if it wasn't hurting. It should spur them on not to have this feeling. You have two minutes or whatever it was to go and a corner to deal with. They knew what they had to do and they didn't see it out.'
City looked sharp in the opening period with Rod Young a constant menace on the right flank in the absence of attacking twins Josh and Jacob Murphy who were not included ahead of the club's FA Youth Cup quarter-final tie at Everton later this week.
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Jed Steer denied Gozie Ugwu after the Royals' frontman raced clear but the City keeper earned a slice of luck in the 30th minute when Dominic Samuel's low angled shot struck the base of his post. Young burst down the right four minutes before the interval but opted to drag at Jon Henly with the unmarked Michael Clunan better placed. Tettey was withdrawn on the hour mark and despite Reading's territorial dominance Jamar Loza had a chance to break the deadlock when he drew the advancing Henly but opted to check back inside and tee up Olumide Durojaiye who drilled over. Royals' defender Niall Keown headed Craig Tanner's corner wide from close range, but the hosts failed to heed the warning when Sweeney crashed home a stoppage time volley inside the Norwich six yard box.
• Norwich City U21s: Steer, McNeil, Toffolo (Hodd 60), Tettey (Barker 60), Sheriff, Gafaiti, Young, Durojaiye, Loza, Clunan, Browne. Subs (not used): Matthews, Lokko, Randall.
• Reading U21s: Henly, Keown, Webb, Partridge, Sweeney, Cooper, Arnold, Tshibola (Tanner 72), Ugwu, Samuel (Ikpeazu 87), Taylor. Subs (not used): Edwards, Lincoln, Kelly.
• Goal: Sweeney (90)
• Booking: Cooper
• Referee: Alan Young