Reading Royals Women took to the court again at the weekend in a friendly match against Bloomsbury Futsal. Following a frustrating defeat to London Genesis in the previous NFS fixture, Royals Women were looking forward to the opportunity to try some new things in a less pressurised environment.
Head Coach Fernando Silva was unable to attend due to illness, so club vice-captain Alicia Povey turned player-manager for the day.
Bloomsbury, whose first team now competes in the FA Women’s Super Series Tier One, played a mixed ability team, while Royals had a skeleton side due to injury and illness.
A familiar starting-five took to the court, with Cristina Sarmiento, Alicia Povey ©, Becky Scott, Eva Ramsey and Shauna Giltinan opening the game.
The Royals struggled during the first half, sitting deep while Bloomsbury pressed high, losing the ball a number of times from goal kicks. It was, for that reason, the high-pressing Bloomsbury that opened the scoring with Emma Thackwray pelting a ball into the top of the net after Royals failed to clear their lines.
Bloomsbury doubled their lead shortly afterwards, as Reading once again failed to break out of the high press, and Sarmiento was beaten by another stinging shot.
A change in tactics, seeing the Royals change to a high press, allowed the Berkshire side to create more chances. Povey was frustrated to see her header hit the post, before she was hacked down for a free-kick minutes later and sent her distinctive futsal flick over the keeper and wall, but onto the crossbar.
It was Scott who opened the scoring for the Royals, as a corner ball left her with enough time to get off a well-placed long effort which shot past the Bloomsbury keeper.
There was a stop-start end to the half as some questionable challenges saw Bloomsbury’s Helena Scotland receive a talking to from the referee. The talking-to seemed to fire her up even more, and she closed the half with a goal to take it to 3-1 at the break.
Half-time: Bloomsbury 3-1 Reading Royals
A change in the Reading goal saw Molly Ripley replace Cristina Sarmiento for the second half, and another change in style of play, as the Royals looked to go long from the keeper in order to break the high-press.
Eva Ramsey was doing a stellar job as fix, with some tricky Bloomsbury players and tiredness in the Reading ranks causing slight issues.
Daisy Mifflin and Ines Cipriano were lively when they had their chance for Reading, and linked up well to create some chances, but it was Bloomsbury who pulled away early in the second half, with Thackwray scoring another two.
Povey, who it looked like was going to be denied for the whole match, finally got the ball in the back of the net for Reading, as the Royals won the ball and released her one-on-one with the goalkeeper, seeing her slot home across goal.
It was Povey at the double next, as a flicked ball from a Ramsey kick-in was nudged into the bottom corner. Minutes later, it looked like she might make it a classic three, if it weren’t for her ex-university teammate Erin Jenkins who provided a cynical challenge, taking her down just outside the area.
It was Jenkins who scored another two for Bloomsbury as they extended their lead – a simple back post tap-in and an audacious scoop which caught Ripley off her line.
Ines Cipriano scored her second Royals goal for the season, and Reading’s fourth of the match – her characteristic quick feet seeing her able to toe poke a ball hard into the back of the net.
Despite the much better showing in the second half, it was Bloomsbury who finished the game stronger, notching up seven goals to the Royals’ four. A competitive, well-natured game which gave both teams an opportunity to put training into practice before respective league games.
Full-time: Bloomsbury 7-4 Reading Royals
Scott, Povey (2), Cipriano
Reading are back in action in the midweek as they kick-off their season in the Hampshire FA Futsal League, where they will have the opportunity to play new players before throwing them in the deep end with the FA National Futsal Series. Royals Women were top of the North Division of the Hampshire FA League before COVID halted the season, and will be looking to put their new experience into practice to do the same again.