Fara Williams’ second-half strike rescued Reading Women a point in their 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Bristol City Women.
Emma Bissell’s first-half strike was cancelled out by the veteran midfielder at the start of the second half, as it ended honours even in this Barclays FA Women’s Super League contest at a cold Madejski Stadium.
Both teams came into this contest in Berkshire looking to end their own barren runs. The Royals were looking to end their four-game streak in the league without a win with a precious three points, while Bristol City were looking for their first league victory of the season.
Implications of getting a result were big for both sides, but especially for Reading, having this game being played at the Madejski Stadium in front of fans for the first time in a long while.
Last time they faced Bristol City Women here at the Madejski Stadium was on women’s football weekend - an encounter that ended in an emphatic and eventful 3-3 draw.
This game had a lot to live up to in order to match what happened in last season’s fixture at the Madejski.
The Royals came out of the blocks quickly, and early efforts in the first 15 minutes from Angharad James, Natasha Harding, Fara Williams and Danielle Carter failed to find the back of the net.
It was a rather slow start from the visitors who registered their first shot in the 17th minute, with forward Charlie Wellings only being able to find the side netting from a rather tight angle.
Kelly Chambers’ side really took the game to the visitors in the first half. A lack of a clinical edge and a player-of-the-match performance from Bristol City goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley meant the Royals couldn’t find the breakthrough they so deserved on the balance of play in the opening 45 minutes.
The closest Reading came to an opening goal was in the 27th minute when captain Natasha Harding had her shot saved onto the crossbar by the inspired Baggaley in the Bristol net.
Instead, the Royals found themselves behind going into half time, with the typical Bristol City counter attack working a treat like it did in the 3-3 game last season.
Wellings, who was one City’s best players in the first half, laid the ball across the box to Emma Bissell, who finished under the onrushing Grace Moloney in the Reading goal to make it 1-0 to the visitors. A bitter blow that was for Chambers’ side going into half time; they had it all to do in the second half.
Unsurprisingly the half-time team talk really got Reading going again and it only took them five minutes to level the scores.
An uncharacteristic Sophie Baggaley mistake was pounced upon clinically by Fara Williams who smashed her effort from within the box into the roof of the net to level the scores.
That was Williams’ second league goal of the season, following on from her previous strike, which was a penalty scored earlier in the season when Reading beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Just what manager Kelly Chambers would have wanted from her side early on in the second half (a quick response).
The visitors were shaken and it was key that their defence could resist the next few minutes of Reading pressure as the Royals looked to complete a quick turnaround in the second half.
They nearly did just that in the 57th minute, but Baggaley made up for her mistake by producing a wonderful safe to prevent Danielle Carter from giving Reading the lead.
Baggaley was called upon again in the 65th minute to deny Jessica Fishlock her first goal of the season for the Royals.
Tanya Oxtoby’s sides main attacking threat in the second half came on the counter attack, just like it did in the first period of the match.
Yana Daniels’ through ball for the visitors found Charlie Wellings in acres of space in the box, but the attacker’s effort curled just wide of Moloney’s post to the relief of all the fans inside the stadium.
Relief nearly turned into enjoyment a few minutes later in 77th minute, with captain Natasha Harding being played through one on one with Baggaley. Unfortunately for the home fans in attendance, the captain rolled her effort just wide of Baggaley’s near post.
Against the run of play and the late Reading pressure, it was the visitors who nearly nicked a late winner. Bristol City’s star striker Ebony Salmon couldn’t find the back of the net after a weaving run on the counter caused havoc amongst the Reading backline.
Luckily for them, Salmon skied her effort over the bar on this occasion and also on a later occasion in the 88th minute, as she went in search of her third league goal of the season for the Robins.
Both teams huffed and puffed at the end but were made to settle for the draw.
Player of the match
Despite a rather dominant display from the Royals, player of the match had to go to Sophie Baggaley in the Bristol City goal.
Without her important saves, the visitors could and maybe should have been on the end of a heavy defeat today in Berkshire. But her saves meant Bristol City came away from the Madejski Stadium with a valuable point.
It was a similar story last season in the 3-3 draw. Without the saves in that game too, Bristol City would have been on the end of a defeat to the Royals.
Implications and what’s next for both sides
This result is more beneficial to Bristol City in their battle for survival. They now have two points after this contest and remain bottom of the table.
For the Royals, this point means they are in sixth place with 10 points from their first eight WSL matches.
Reading have a week off before they face top-of-the-table Manchester United in the FA Women’s Super League next Sunday, with kick off being at 2:00pm (GMT).
Bristol City are in midweek WSL action in a crunch game at the bottom of the table against fellow relegation candidates Aston Villa at the Stoke Gifford Stadium, with kick off at 7:30pm (GMT).