Reading FC Women returned to the Mad Stad to take on Lewes in the Continental Cup on Sunday afternoon, in what was really good match, with Fara Williams netting a hat-trick.
Kelly Chambers used this game to rotate the squad a little bit following last week’s 3-2 win against Everton, with Rachel Laws starting in goals and Maz Pacheco, Angharad James, Rakel Honnudottir, Lisa-Marie Utland and Kiera Skeels coming into the starting line-up - Skeels in particular making a composed, competitive debut for the Royals.
Reading started off at a tremendous pace, and for the first 20 minutes or so kept Lewes back in their half of the pitch. The Royals showed their intentions early on with the particularly dominant and impressive Williams taking pot shots at the Lewes goal on sight.
On 15 minutes the Lewes defence played a sloppy backpass which Williams took advantage of and put in the back of the net. The period of domination continued for the next 10 minutes with the impressive Chaplen again grazing the bar with a powerful shot.
26 minutes in and the composure that Reading showed for the first part of the first half went missing when Lewes - against the run of play - equalised with a messy goal. This was followed up on 34 when Lewes took the lead with a really good team goal, overloading their right-hand side before finishing with a decent effort.
Truth be told, Reading had a lot of the ball and were putting on a lot of the pressure without making the keeper work, and were playing some nice stuff. A good sign was that, after going 2-1 down, there wasn’t a panic, with Reading continuing to play their passing style. Howard and Skeels both tried to pass the ball around and drive the team forward from the centre of defence.
The start of the second half saw Chambers utilise the bench and introduce both Amalie Eikeland and Jade Moore into the game. Both subs brought a higher level of energy into the Reading FC side with the particularly impressive Eikeland looking dangerous every time she got the ball.
Chambers also made a significant tactical change, swapping the swift Kristine Bjørdal Leine to centreback alongside Howard and moving Skeels to rightback to encourage the team to play a lot further up the pitch.
Reading played with a lot more tempo in the second period, controlling the game and forcing Lewes back. This paid dividends when Williams hit a stunner which the keeper couldn’t control, levelling the game at 2-2.
Sensing blood, the Royals continued to press, with James and Chaplen having strikes graze the bar. The Lewes number three also got a yellow card after being given a torrid time by Eikeland who had being playing some dangerous balls into the box.
The industrious Utland was replaced by Millie Farrow as Reading went for the kill. She had one cleared off the line and a succession of corners, which led to a feeling that this game would peter out into a draw.
After the men’s team got an injury-time winner at the same ground on Saturday, Williams followed suit with her own injury-time goal. After a 45 minutes of pressure, the Lewes defence finally succumbed, with Williams getting her deserved hat trick.
This was an industrious and good display from a much-changed Reading side. Giving academy players a chance is always good to see and it’s a shame that Beth Roberts didn’t get on for her debut in addition to Kiera Skeels.
When they needed to, Reading had the option to bring on an international in Moore and the also impressive Eikeland, who made a huge difference to this game with some direct running and scaring the living bejesus out of the Lewes defence.
Women’s football has come on so much over the last few years, and really does need the fans getting behind it and supporting some really talented and skilful footballers. This was my first experience of watching women’s football, and certainly won’t be my last.
Having successful teams in both the men’s and women’s games has to be the goal of the club. Playing at the Madejski is the way forward, but also to build a legacy we need an academy that boosts both the men’s and women’s teams.
Player of the match: Fara Williams. She was head and shoulders above the rest of the players and got a deserved hat-trick.
Laws, Leine, Skeels, Howard, Rowe, Williams, Pacheco (Moore 45), James, Honnudottir (Eikeland), Chaplen, Utland (Farrow 67)