As I alluded to in my last blog the first part of last week was very much orientated to our FA Youth Cup tie at Reading.
Preparations for the game were disrupted a little by the weather and injuries, with heavy snow and injury worries causing a few problems ahead of the fixture.
For example with heavy snow covering much of the training ground we spent Monday working on the astro pitch and though we had intended to do some work on closing Reading down as high up the pitch as possible a lack of available fit players meant that a number of our coaches had to assume the roles of Reading players!
We travelled down to Reading on the Tuesday afternoon but we took the opportunity to train in the morning to loosen up and get rid of any stiffness. Again we went through our shape and finished off with a small sided game.
After our lunch we were off, on the long journey to Berkshire, I must admit though that the journey didn’t feel that long, as everyone was excited and buzzing.
We spent the night at the Madejski Hotel, which is basically joined to the stadium and it was first class. The lads were all on their best behaviour around the hotel and I think everyone is conscious that they are in effect a representative of the football club so are keen to ensure that their standards of behaviour reflect positively on the club. Everyone was either early or on time for team meetings and briefings which I think is reflective of the importance that every player attached to the fixture and a standard that should always be maintained.
We were up early on Wednesday for some final preparations and our coaches again emphasised the importance of set pieces.
Following a light possession session we went back to the hotel to relax before checking out around 4pm. A team meeting was then convened where we sat down and watch some video footage of our previous displays this season and watched all the goals we’d scored this season and some clips of Arsenal at their best. If it was designed to build confidence it worked because everyone was uplifted and buzzing as we headed down to the dressing rooms to get ready!
FA Youth Cup Match: Newcastle United v Reading
Looking across the dressing you could see the hunger on everyone faces and we knew we were up for it. We took the game to them from kick off. We had a few opportunities earlier on but failed to convert, but we got the lead 10 minutes into the game. We must of missed at least another half dozen chances after that and it was agonising and frustrating to watch because you are conscious that at any time those misses could come back to haunt you.
Fortunately Phil (Airey) made it 2:0 just before half time and it gave us a nice cushion going in to the interval.
We knew they’d come out all guns blazing in the second half and they did not disappoint! They got a pen after two minutes of the restart which Jacob Walcot scored (looks very like Theo) but we knew that we’d be ok as long as we controlled the tempo of the game. We managed to slow it all down a little and take the sting out of their play and then we got ourselves a penalty and restored the two goal lead.
We created a few more chances and defended as a unit when called upon but thankfully that wasn’t all that often and we saw the game out to go through to the next round!
We got thursday off as we didn’t get back home till 3am after the Reading match but despite the late hour everyone was still buzzing at getting through to the next round where we’ll face another trip down south!
We trained on Friday for an hour on the Astroturf and as a few of us felt a little stiff and tired it was perhaps a blessing in disguise when we learned that Saturday’s Academy game had been called off, as it gave us all some extra recuperation time!