By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Newcastle United Under-21s 0
Reading Under-21s 3 (Obita 2, Tanner)
Nine-man Newcastle were well beaten by Reading in a wind-affected Barclays Under-21 Premier League affair at United's Benton training ground.
In their first league game of 2013, Willie Donachie and Peter Beardsley's side included four debutants and also several players with senior experience, but had goalkeeper Jak Alnwick and second-half substitute Jamie Sterry sent off.
Massadio Haidara, who signed from Nancy last week, was handed his first appearance for the club at left-back and he was joined by five players with first-team appearances to their name - James Tavernier, Romain Amalfitano, Shane Ferguson, Paul Dummett and Adam Campbell.
At the other end of the spectrum was Academy striker Tom Heardman, who wore the number nine shirt in his second-string bow and the big forward almost gave his team the lead in the opening exchanges as he headed just wide from Campbell's right-wing cross.
With the likes of Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve Stone, Andy Woodman, Gael Bigirimana, Steve Harper and Rob Elliot looking on, United continued their bright start when right-back Alex Kitchen embarked upon a driving run and his low shot was saved by Royals keeper Jonathon Henly.
But as the elements began to cause havoc and make football almost impossible, Reading began to up the ante with Jordan Obita particularly threatening.
He had already seen a shot well saved by Alnwick before, in the 20th minute, he siezed upon a loose pass from Tavernier and drilled past the Newcastle keeper. Alnwick then beat away another effort from Obita, then watched as Dominic Samuel burst through and curled just wide of the far post.
But Alnwick's afternoon was over soon afterwards as he raced off his line to clear a through-ball but saw the wind propel his kick straight to the feet of Samuel, who went for a lob. Dummett was on the line as cover but Alnwick flicked up a hand to divert it away and was shown a straight red card.
Jonathan Mitchell took his place in goal, with the unfortunate Heardman sacrificed, but the new keeper's first action was to pick the ball out of the net as Obita's free-kick deflected off the wall and into the net.
And then three minutes later, right on the stroke of half-time, Craig Tanner was able to get into the box, round Mitchell and sidefoot home to make it 3-0.
Newcastle improved dramatically after the break and, despite their numerical disadvantage, restricted to Royals to only a handful of opportunities to add to their lead, with Jake Taylor sending a free-kick just wide.
But then substitute Jamie Sterry - who had only been on the field for little over ten minutes and was making his under-21 debut - saw red for a late tackle, with referee Andrew Greenwood deeming it to be a reckless challenge rather than that of an over-enthusiastic teenager trying to impress.
Mitchell made a good save from Samuel while at the other end another debutant, Jonathyn Quinn, stabbed wide for Newcastle.
Newcastle United Under-21s: Jak Alnwick, Alex Kitchen, Massadio Haidara (Jonathyn Quinn 53), James Tavernier, Paul Dummett (c), Adam Campbell, Steven Logan, Brandon Miele (Jamie Sterry 66), Romain Amalfitano, Shane Ferguson, Tom Heardman (Jonathan Mitchell 41).
Subs not used: Lee Desmond, Greg Olley
Reading Under-21s: Jonathon Henly, Nick Arnold, Josh Webb, Aaron Tshibola, Niall Keown, Pierce Sweeney, Ryan Edwards, Jake Taylor, Dominic Samuel, Craig Tanner, Jordan Obita
Substitutes: Charlie Losasso, Daniel Lincoln, Tarique Fcsu, Shane Griffin, Liche Ikpeazu