COLCHESTER United's under-23s began their Premier League Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw at Reading this afternoon, writes BRIAN WALLER.

A late goal from Jake Hutchinson helped Richard Hall's side claim a point against their Category One opponents at the Madejski Stadium, in the opening group clash.

Colchester had also faced Reading last season but were on the end of a 5-1 defeat after they had taken an early lead from Todd Miller.

It was always going to be a big test and it got even harder when the hosts took an early lead from their first attack of the game.

McLeary got to the byline and cut the ball back for Nevers to put the chance away after just nine minutes.

To their credit though the U's were not behind too long.

They were soon back on level terms nine minutes later as Michael Fernandes pounced on a loose ball and after a bit of clever footwork, fired his shot into the top corner of the net.

As a result, the teams went into the break still at 1-1 in what had been a good first half.

Colchester went very close to taking the lead just after the hour mark when Louis Dunne's left-foot effort drew a superb fingertip save from home keeper Harvey Collins.

But into the closing minutes, the U's conceded again as a penalty was given away by sub Ollie Sims who pulled down Teddy Howe as he broke down the right hand side of the area, with ten minutes remaining.

The spot-kick was duly despatched by Gabriel Osho who shot confidently to the right, whilst keeper Callum Coulter went to his left.

However Colchester kept battling and fought back superbly to secure a draw three minutes into stoppage-time, after Hutchinson was on hand to prod in a cross that came in from the right.

Colchester United under-23: Coulter, Scarlett, Weaire, Collinge, Kazeem, Ager, Dunne, James, Freitas-Gouveia, Hinds, Fernandes. Substitutes: Hallett, Ige, Sims, Hutchinson, Anderson.