Reading Women began their Continental Cup campaign with a resounding victory over Charlton Athletic Women on Wednesday evening. The Royals, who were without talisman Fara Williams, were comfortable throughout and were rarely troubled by the Addicks front line.
Reading started the game playing a fluid 4-3-3 with Jess Fishlock playing just in front of the back four. It gave full-backs Kristine Leine and Emma Mitchell an opportunity to get forward, with Mitchell linking well with Brooke Chaplen early on to force a shot onto the Charlton goal.
The Royals deservedly opened the scoring on the 25th minute when Danielle Carter raced clear after being put through by the excellent Jess Fishlock. Carter, with just the goalkeeper to beat, made no mistake by firing her shot firmly into the bottom corner.
The home side did have a succession of free-kicks in good areas but both Mitchell and Fishlock struggled to make much of the opportunities. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to see a Reading player other than Fara Williams standing over a dead ball.
Before the half-time whistle both Amalie Eiekland and Deanna Cooper went close to extending Reading’s lead but Startup dealt with Eikeland’s header well before seeing Cooper fire over the bar.
The second half saw Jess Fishlock replaced by Lauren Bruton but this didn’t slow down the Royals who continued to play with confidence and a swagger, keeping the ball from Charlton in tight situations before breaking when the opportunity allowed.
Danielle Carter caused Charlton’s backline problems all evening and the Addicks’ defenders were probably delighted to see her withdrawn on 65 minutes, however, her replacement Tash Harding proved an even bigger headache for Charlton scoring within 60 seconds of entering the field. Her cross (or was it a shot?) eluded all Reading’s forwards, Charlton’s defence and finally keeper Startup to end up in the corner of the net. Harding has often been utilised as a full-back during the past couple of seasons so she will have been happy to remind manager Kelly Chambers of her goal-scoring prowess.
Moments later Reading pulled further ahead when Norweigian Eikeland fired past Startup, putting the result of the game beyond any doubt. This allowed Chambers to make some changes bringing on youth products Emma Harries for Eikeland and former Charlton loanee Lily Woodham for the impressive Emma Mitchell. Woodham continued where Mitchell had left off, providing width on the left hand side and getting into the last third supporting the forward line.
The last minute of the game saw the icing on the cake for Reading as they scored a fourth. A rocket of a strike from substitute Rachel Rowe thundered against the crossbar and Brooke Chaplen reacted fastest to net the Royals’ final goal of the evening. It was a deserved win for Reading against a hard-working Charlton side who harried Reading well but failed to offer much attacking threat during the ninety minutes.
‘Perhaps the only disappointment of the evening came from the decision to not screen the Continental Cup games online’
Overall it was a very encouraging evening for Kelly Chambers who saw four different forward players on the scoresheet. Chambers was also able to hand a full debut to Korean international Jeon who demonstrated some neat touches, Fishlock was able to continue her rehabilitation from injury with another 45 minutes and youth products Lily Woodham and Emma Harries had some valuable minutes of game time at the Madejski Stadium,
Perhaps the only disappointment of the evening came from the decision to not screen the Continental Cup games online. With supporters currently not permitted into stadiums it’s a great shame that fans at home aren’t allowed to follow their teams progress in this competition.
Reading now sit on top of Group D after their victory. West Ham United and Brighton played out a 2-2 draw, with West Ham winning on penalties. This means that Reading have three points, followed by West Ham with two, Brighton with one and Charlton with zero. It’s likely the Hammers and Seagulls will pose a tougher test for the Royals than Charlton but Kelly Chambers will be pleased with their start to this competition.
Reading’s next game is against Birmingham City at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday in the FA Women’s Super League. A full list of the weekends fixtures is here.