Despite having the bulk of the chances, Hayes & Yeading United’s under 18s needed a late equaliser from Ashley Barnes to secure a single point as our bid to claim the title appears to be stumbling towards the finish line.
Chances came to both sides within the opening ten minutes, firstly for Reading, when Matthew Fox met an Adam Murrey corner on the volley but was wide of the target. Seconds later a neat through ball from Nathan Webb sent Jake Lovell through but under pressure from home skipper George Batts he fired weakly at keeper Chris Rackley.
Minutes later United were to hit the woodwork as Daniel Wishart beat Fox to a long ball, placed his shot past Rackley’s dive only to see the ball bounce back into play off the upright.
An accurate through ball from Murrey found Reading striker Callum McCulloch in space but he fired high over Rourke Pickford’s goal. Just after half hour mark both sides again had good chances to break the deadlock. Charlie Wassmer got his head to an Ashley Barnes corner only for the ball to be hacked off the line and play immediately switched to the other end where Abdul Ally broke into the area but could only fire across the face of the United goal from a tight angle. Play was straight back down the other end and another corner caused problems for the home side as Reading’s Batts helped the ball on to Lovell who hit a sweet volley that force a fine diving save from Rackley.
As the half drew to its conclusion United were denied by the woodwork for the second time as Lovell made space for himself before firing across Rackley from 20 yards only to see his effort come flying back off the same post that Wishart had hit earlier.
Deep into stoppage time one final chance of the half came United’s way when a bouncing ball was misjudged by Danny Pomfroy and with Rackley off his line Josh Andrew nipped in but his lob just cleared the crossbar.
The opening of the second half was not to United’s liking as just four minutes had been played when the home side scored a goal that had looked most unlikely in the first half. Murrey was again the creator as he found space on the left, his low centre being met perfectly by Ally who saw his shot hit the post but this time ended up nestling in the back of Pickford’s net.
United were urged from the bench to up the momentum but it just seemed that the spark from earlier in the season was missing. Chances still came though, Lovell had a shot that just missed the angle of the goal and on the hour a 35 yard shot from Wishart was misjudged by Rackley but the ball hit his knee and went wide of the goal.
Tight marking and quick closing from the opposition kept chances very much at bay until a plethora arrived in the final five minutes, started actually by the home side who saw substitute Antonio D’Onofrio latch on to a stray Reece Fleary header but he fired wide of the target.
United were then back on the chase, Andrew found space to cross from the left and Wassmer arrived to volley the ball goalwards only for Rackley to somehow claw the ball out for a corner from behind his own back. The leveller was just two minutes away though as another Andrew cross found Barnes who cut in from the right and hit a low shot with his weaker left foot that beat Rackley’s dive into the bottom corner.
Having pulled level with two minutes plus stoppage time remaining the home side could have broken away seconds later when United’s defence were caught square only for Ally to be dragged down by Wassmer for which he may have been lucky only to see yellow, saved by the fact that he was so high up the pitch.
Stoppage time saw two superb chances for United to take the points but it was not to be. Barnes raced away from the middle of the park before playing the ball past Rackley to Lovell who appeared to be denied right on the goal line by an excellent defensive interception. With just seconds remaining Rackley made the save of the game when he palmed out an Abdula Nsubuga rocket, the ball falling quickly to Wishart who with the goal gaping fired over.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Website United Man of the Match: Ashley Barnes.