Royals win by the odd goal at St James Park
A young Exeter City side were defeated 1-0 in their first pre-season fixture, when Reading were visitors at St James Park.
The result was never the priority though, with fitness and performance the more pressing concerns – and City certainly impressed on those fronts.
Ryan Edwards’ early goal for the Royals was the difference in the scoreline, and somehow goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen kept the City attack at bay after the break despite being put under plenty of pressure from a potent front-line.
Both managers named separate XIs for each half – for City, only Christy Pym and Jordan Tillson were lined up to play in both halves.
Under-18 midfielder Alex Byrne was included in the first-half XI after impressing during his training sessions with the first team, whilst trialist Christian Ribiero was also named in the second-half squad.
City also welcomed back a familiar face in the shape of Jake Taylor, who was formerly on loan with the Grecians from the Madejski Stadium.
The hosts started the brighter and the hard work of Wheeler in the centre-forward position was causing early problems.
It was Wheeler’s work down the right, combining with Aaron Dawson, which allowed the former to set up Matt Jay for the game’s first chance. The 18-year-old earned a yard with a drop of a shoulder and forced a save from Adam Federici.
But the Royals went in front with eight minutes played, as a ball punted forward was flicked into the path of Edwards, who sprinted goalwards and finished coolly.
Reading started to get on the ball a bit more but City were putting in a big shift to press the ball and not allow anything cheap. Byrne, on his maiden first-team appearance, wasn’t shy in the tackle in the centre of the pitch.
The height of centre-halves Michael Hector and Sean Morrison weren’t allowing City the chance to win much in the air up front, but Wheeler twice came close to exploiting chances on the deck.
Firstly he received low in the box from Craig Woodman, only for Hector to read the play well to get a toe in, and then he sprinted past Morrison and drew a heavy foul from the defender.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Reading 1
City’s second-half team also came out with tempo – Ollie Watkins in particular was looking lively high on the left of the pitch.
And it was the Grecians that had the first clear chance after the interval, as Sercombe picked up near the centre circle and drove to goal. Alex Pearce got down well to make a saving block.
The crowd in the Big Bank were seeing City fly forward in attack and Reading’s defence were being forced to turn and face their own net with Watkins in particular injecting some pace.
It was Watkins that wriggled past a challenge and selflessly laid in Tom Nichols, only for Alex Pearce to put in a late sliding tackle to deny the forward.
Moments later it was Jimmy Keohane that burst down the right and a drilled cross pinballed around the area and deflected away off the upright.
And then Grimes rose to head a high, looping cross towards goal – the first effort was saved, and Nichols couldn’t pick a hole to shoot through as the bodies quickly closed down the rebound.
A rare foray forward from the Royals saw Craig Tanner slot in Jack Stacey, but Pym turned around the post with a smart save.
City had a late chance when Keohane was felled outside the box – Grimes popped in a low free-kick which was turned away, as it ended 1-0 to the Royals.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Reading 1
Exeter City (first half): Pym; Dawson, Coles, Baldwin, Tillson, Woodman; Davies, Byrne, Oakley; Wheeler, Jay.
Exeter City (second half): Pym, Butterfield, Bennett, Moore-Taylor, Tillson (Pope 80), Ribiero (Riley-Lowe 80); Grimes, Keohane, Sercombe; Nichols, Watkins.
Reading (first half): Federici; Gunter, Morrison, Hector, Obita; Taylor, Williams, Kuhl, Edwards; Blackman, Pogregnyak.
Reading (second half): Andersen; Kelly, Pearce, Long, Cummings, Sweeney; Akpan, Stacey, Tshibola; Tanner, Griffin.
Subs: Cooper, McCarthy.
Goal: Edwards (8).
Attendance: 1,211 (202 away).
Referee: Andy Woolmer