New Coach, Iain Botterill, endures tricky start to season

Eton 2nd XI:0 John Madejski Academy 2nd XI: 5

A youthful and experimental Eton side lost to a classy Reading academy outfit, which down to the footballing focus of the school, looked far more comfortable on the ball and set a tough benchmark for the 2nds to live up to. However the game remained competitive throughout, with many aspiring C blockers involved and they must be given credit for their energetic performance.

After considerable pressure from the outset, any rustiness was quickly exposed and Eton did well to hold out for a quarter of an hour. It was a shame that it took a mistake with strong echoes of Paul Robinson’s air kick to dismantle the industrious Eton defence as Alex Eager at right back missed an apparently inconspicuous ball – an error that coach, Botterill, will not want to see again.

Despite evident superior skill from the Reading players, many of whom were playing for a professional contract, the young, vocal coach had the team playing an expansive passing game, pleasing on the eye. This was in stark contrast to the long ball tactics employed by the opposition in an attempt to exploit any early season weaknesses in the Eton defence, Oscar Hardy and Felix Goodman at centre back dealing with the aerial threat particularly well.

The second goal came from a move that caught Ferdy Campell flat footed, the grateful Reading strikers needing no second invitation to put the ball past brave ‘keeper Thavisin with a clinical finish. The game was being lost in the midfield, this down to the combination of superior strength and passing accuracy of the opposition, a potent mixture. There was much industry from midfielders, Stopford-Sackville and Ed Wilson, but to little effect – the products of a footballing culture at the academy were able to outmuscle the relatively spindly Etonians in comparison.

Three more goals followed in the 2nd half that were of the highest class, this despite a rousing team talk from coach Botterill, (the ‘hair dryer treatment’ being kept back for another day.)However green shoots of recovery were showing with a lively performance from Lloyd Webber who provided the pinnacle of resistance with a rambunctious shot from an Eager corner that forced the opposition keeper in to a leaping save. This was followed by encouraging skill from Marion, looking more than comfortable alongside the finer Reading players. Dan Harman had the best chance for Eton, missing a gaping header, a mistake he will hope to erase as the season progresses. In truth, the future of the 2nds looks rosier than the score line suggests under the confident stewardship of their new coach. The team will move into next week excited by the prospect of young players with large amounts of potential waiting to be grooved by their competent skipper.

Nick Abel Smith