Reading Put In Excellent Performance – But It’s Not Quite Enough Against The Champions Elect
A game against WSL1 leaders and generally star-studded Manchester City Women would normally have resulted in a good few days of exciting build-up with a wealth of interviews and analysis.
However, with the really rather dubious WSL fixture programme which defies reason and logic at every opportunity, last night’s match was the third in very short succession at Adam’s Park so came hot on the heels of Reading’s 1-1 draw to Notts County. Considering the massive gaps within the WSL1 season this year, packing in over a third of our home games within a 10 day period is a little odd!
Reading made a few changes to their starting eleven and in doing so demonstrated how many midfielders we have compared to other areas of the pitch. Mary Earps continued in goal, watched from the stands by last year’s fans’ Player of the season Grace Moloney, with Sophie Perry and Becky Jane at full back. Kayleigh Hines moved from her normal midfield role to centre back to partner captain Kirsty McGee in the absence of Kylie Davies, with regular centre back Molly Bartrip returning to the bench after a short absence. Lois Roche came in for her first start since her return from injury in the middle alongside Remi Allen who came in for Rachel Rowe who herself had moved to the wing in place of Melissa Fletcher. Lauren Bruton and Emma Follis completed the midfield and Jade Boho-Sayo continued in the lone striker role.
Although initially the team selection raised a few eyebrows with a central midfielder at centre back and at right wing despite there being a quality centre back and two quality wingers on the bench the team actually shaped up pretty well and both Kayleigh and Rachel had very good games. Things started off pretty evenly although as expected Manchester City enjoyed the bulk of possession, with Reading countering quickly and with purpose.
City had a few half chances, most notably when England captain Steph Houghton had an effort cleared off the line after 10 minutes but Reading defended well and clean cut chances were pretty much non-existent at either end for most of the first half. Izzy Christiansen looked to be through on goal midway through the half but an excellent last gasp sliding tackle from Kirsty McGee kept her at bay. Reading continued their strong rear guard action until Christiansen finally found a way through on 37 minutes, heading home an accurate cross from Nikita Parris past the stranded Mary Earps.
Reading’s best chance of the half came just a minute later when Jade Boho-Sayo pounced on an error in the City back line, but could only drive her low effort straight at Karen Bardsley.
Half Time Reading FC Women 0 – 1 Manchester City Women
With the Royals chasing an equaliser the game opened up a bit in the second half, with a chance for Kayleigh Hines from a header directly at the keeper followed shortly after by a cracking effort from Georgia Stanway which struck the side of Mary Earps’ post. City again started to show their class and dominate possession, prompting Reading’s first substitution as Laura-May Walkley came on for Lois Roche on 63 minutes, for her first taste of WSL1 action since 10 minutes against Liverpool away.
City continued to apply the pressure and brought on the universally popular Toni Duggan on 73 minutes – and it was Duggan that put the game out of reach on 80 minutes when she fired home a superb strike after Reading had failed to clear their lines. Game over it seemed.
But Reading never know when they’re beaten and on 87 minutes the classy Emma Follis was tripped in the box following one of her trademark runs towards goal. Vice captain Lauren Bruton stepped up and confidently slotted home the penalty, with England’s Karen Bardsley getting nowhere near it. It was no more than the impressive Bruton – and Reading as a whole – had deserved and it sparked a final few minutes of renewed optimism, especially when 4 additional minutes were indicated.
But City are very experienced in seeing out games and in the end they did so in a fairly comfortable fashion through 5 minutes of messing about by the corner flag!
As the final whistle blew the Reading fans knew that their beloved team had given everything and the City players definitely knew that they had been part of a tough game. Credit to the City fans who came down in impressive numbers and sang almost as much as we did to create a really good atmosphere throughout the match. Everyone played their part on and off the pitch in making sure this match would be remembered as a competitive, enjoyable fixture, fitting of WSL1. Emma Follis and Becky Jane both stood out like a badger at a fox convention as per usual, but there were a lot of great performances last night all over the park, not least Lauren Bruton who is definitely back to her best.
With 3 games in 10 days you’d be forgiven for thinking that the next Reading game would be just around the corner. But of course this is WSL1 so the next game is 3 weeks away – against Manchester City again!!
At least now Reading will go into that game with the confidence of knowing that they can give any team a good game – and with top quality record-goalscoring international players like Helen Ward waiting for their opportunity on the bench a win is definitely not out of the question.