Reading’s U23s drew 3-3 with Aston Villa at Adams Park on Monday evening – a topsy-turvy affair which swung one way and then the other, but ultimately ended in parity.

Villa went ahead twice through Jack Clarke and Cameron Archer, with Danny Loader replying each time, before he completed his hat-trick in the second half to put Reading ahead with his second penalty of the night. But Dimitri Sea struck late for Villa, who took a point back to the Midlands.

In a team which boasted a number of players with professional appearances, defender Tyler Blackett offered the most senior experience in the Royals side. Loader, Michael Olise, Teddy Howe and Tom McIntyre were the other starters with first-team appearances under their belt for Reading.

Reading earned their first opportunity through a quick attack down their left. Loader and Ben House combined well, and Olise showed tenacity to win the ball back as the defence tried to snuff out the attack. His low effort was saved on the stretch by Viljami Sinisalo.

Loader then went close from a direct attack. Villa’s foray forward had ended with an overhit cross, and Howe was alert to keep the ball in play on the far side and drove quickly upfield and strafed a diagonal to Loader. The forward stepped inside and fired just past the post as the defence swarmed back.

It was Villa who took the lead though. It was a tame one from a Royals perspective as possession was turned over just outside the area, allowing Clarke to slot his shot just inside the post with goalkeeper Myles Roberts exposed.

On the half-hour, it was all square again. Olise’s free-kick from wide on the right caused chaos in the Villa box, and House was caught off the bar. Up stepped Loader to take the spot-kick, and even though the goalkeeper went the right way, the shot was placed right into the corner and out of reach.

Just before the break, the Villains led again as they converted a quick forward foray. It was Archer who was slid in from the left, taking one touch to control and another to fire low into the corner to re-establish a lead.

Reading equalised just into the second half, and once more it was Loader on the scoresheet. His goal owed plenty to the pressure applied by Howe, winning the ball on the right, and allowed House to slide in a square ball for Loader to place in.

Midway through the second half, the turnaround was complete. An early ball forward by Ramarni Medford-Smith allowed Loader to spin into the area, and he was shunted to ground before he had a chance to pull the trigger. The referee pointed to the spot and, like in the first half, Loader was accurate and decisive from 12 yards.

Three minutes from time, Villa snatched a leveller. A misplaced pass out of defence allowed the Villans to pounce, and Jacob Ramsey squared for substitute Sea to drill in from close range. In the end, points shared.