First half goals from Jaden Heskey and Emilio Lawrence fired City through to the FA Youth quarter-finals after a hard-fought and absorbing fifth round tie at home to Reading.

Ben Wilkinson’s side had flown out of the blocks, racing into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes at the Joie Stadium thanks to efforts from Heskey and Lawrence.

The Royals were also indebted to keeper Harrison Rhone who produced a string of brilliant saves to keep City at bay.

And the visitors then made a real contest of it, striking on 68 minutes through Kiyan Coke Miles Smith to set up a nervy last 20 minutes.

But City held firm to seal our passage through to the last eight with a home tie against Tottenham our reward.

What happened

Enjoying home advantage at the Joie Stadium for the first time in this season’s FA Youth Cup campaign Ben Wilkinson’s side came racing out of the blocks dominating possession and territory almost from the off.

And the City youngsters got off the perfect start as we took a deserved lead on eight minutes through Jaden Heskey to immediately rock the visitors on their heels.

Left back Seb Naylor was the architect whipped in a dipping free kick from the left channel which caused havoc in the Reading box.

OPENING GAMBIT: Jaden Heskey celebrates after firing City ahead.
OPENING GAMBIT: Jaden Heskey celebrates after firing City ahead.

There was a suspicion that Matty Warhurst may have been fouled as the ball initially ricocheted around the six-yard box but the rebound fell invitingly to the waiting Heskey who rifled home a low shot to put City ahead.

It was the first time Reading had conceded a goal in three rounds and within three minutes City had almost doubled our lead.

Winger Ashton Muir wriggled his way into the heart of the Reading box before pinging an effort in on goal which was clawed away by Royals keeper Harrison Rhone.

City tested the Reading keeper again on 18 minutes with another quickfire attack down the left channel.

Joel Ndala beat his man before finding the waiting Muir at the far post but once more Rhone came to the visitors’ rescue.

However, with City in such irresistible early mood a second goal did finally arrive on 19 minutes thanks to a quite brilliant strike from Emilio Lawrence.

ACTION MAN: Joel Ndala takes the fight to Reading.
ACTION MAN: Joel Ndala takes the fight to Reading.

The Scottish winger first cut inside from the left flank into the box before readjusting his shape and curling home a quite sublime right foot shot that went in off the far post.

The goal was a mirror of the precision and purpose that had characterised much of City’s first half work with Wilkinson’s troops all but camping themselves in the Reading half.

However, our dominance didn’t translate into a third first half goal despite a plethora of corners and promising attacking openings.

City came flying out of the traps once again after the restart and had two superb opportunities within the opening two minutes.

First Heskey struck the inside of the post after Muir and Matty Henderson-Hall had linked up to great effect before Muir then blazed over after being put clear.

Almost immediately Reading then conjured up their first real opening when Kiyan Coke Miles Smith broke in behind the City back line before steering a 12 yard shot onto the frame of the post.

And with more intensity and aggression marking their game, the Royals suddenly looked a proper threat with a William Ramirez shot forcing a save out of City keeper True Grant.

Lawrence then forced a fine fingertip save from Rhone at the other after again cutting in from the left flank and unleashing a powerful drive.

DOUBLE DELIGHT: Emilio Lawrence is all smiles after his stunning strike.
DOUBLE DELIGHT: Emilio Lawrence is all smiles after his stunning strike.

But Reading sensed an opportunity and Grant needed to be alert on 66 minutes to keep out a snapshot from Tyler Field after Reading had created another dangerous opening.

And it was the visitors who then struck on 68 minutes to change the complexion of the contest through Coke Miles Smith, the winger prodding home in the box after City had squandered possession.

Suddenly it was the visitors harrying and pressing in what was now an compelling affair.

City then spurned another gilt-edged opportunity to stretch our lead on 75 minutes when Rhone dived low to deny Warhurst’s close range effort after a superb break down the right from substitute Farid Alfa-Ruprecht.

Rhone was there again on 89 minutes to deny Ndala as City sought to put the contest to bed.

However, City held their nerve to confirm victory and so keep our dreams of FA Youth Cup glory alive.

WATCHING BRIEF: Head coach Ben Wilkinson keeps a careful eye on proceedings
WATCHING BRIEF: Head coach Ben Wilkinson keeps a careful eye on proceedings

How we lined up

True Grant was in goal and shielded by a back four of Matty Henderson-Hall, skipper Jahmai Simpson-Pusey, Stephen Mfuni and Seb Naylor.

Kian Noble was the holding midfielder with Joel Ndala and Jaden Heskey also in the engine room.

Matty Warhurst was the central attacking focal point with Ashton Muir and Emilio Lawrence providing the width.

CITY XI: Grant, Henderson-Hall (Mukasa 62), Simpson-Pusey (c), Mfuni, Naylor, Noble, Muir, Heskey (Alfa-Ruprecht), Ndala, Warhurst, Lawrence (Dunbar-McDonald 68)

Subs: Fapetu, Brits, Braithwaite, Fletcher

READING: Rhone, Osho, Field, Sackey, Duah, Beacroft (c), Jones, Gutierrez-Ramirez (Omeregie 81), Barough, Porter-Atkinson (Garcia 81) , Coke Miles Smith

Subs: Sharlott, George, Source, White, St Louis

CROSS PURPOSES: Ashton Muir on the charge.
CROSS PURPOSES: Ashton Muir on the charge.

What it means

City’s reward for tonight’s victory is a quarter-final home tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

The Londoners beat Bournemouth 6-2 earlier this week in their fifth-round meting and the game is due to take place at the Joie Stadium in early March.

Precise date and kick-off time will be confirmed on and our official App.

What’s next

Ben Wilkinson’s youngsters are back in Under-18 Premier League North action on Saturday when we  make the short trip to tackle Liverpool’s Under-18s.

Kick-off over on Merseyside is slated for 11.30am.

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