Reading U18s v Everton U18s
Everton Under-18s' Premier League title dream was shattered in cruel fashion as they fell to a 4-0 defeat at Reading on Wednesday.
Kevin Sheedy's charges went into the semi-final game at Hogswood Park knowing victory would set up a home final against either Fulham or Sunderland.
However, a brace from Craig Tanner followed goals from Jack Stacey and Dom Hyam as the Royals marched through to break Blue hearts.
Everton started brightly and forced the first real chance of the game through George Waring.
The big striker found himself in acres of space inside the opposition box but, well-placed, headed over the crossbar.
Reading were also into their stride quickly, however, and soon Stacey gave goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe no chance with a stunning long-range effort that thundered into the net.
Playing in front of Royals first-team boss Nigel Adkins, Tanner then went close after beating the offside trap, before Everton winger Conor Grant fired a powerful volley high and wide of the target.
Tanner had another chance before Reading doubled their lead just before half-time, Hyam spinning on the spot and driving the ball beyond the reach of Springthorpe.
The second half started in the pouring rain and after confusion led Springthorpe to collect a back-pass, the Blues had to stand strong to clear away a free-kick from just six-yards out.
Springthorpe then made decent saves to thwart Tarique Fosu-Henry and Stacey, before Tanner surged forward to slot home a third and all but kill off any lingering hopes of a comeback.
Shattered, Everton allowed Tanner to round Springthorpe and make it four in the final moments, though the young Blues should remain proud of a season in which they reached the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup and qualified for the final league phase via the toughest, 'Elite' route.