Pre-match, enough fuel in the car? Yes, tick. Post-match, I left thinking that’s it’s a shame the Everton team bus also had enough fuel too. In fact, the whole of the Everton football team seem to have more fuel in the tank leaving the Reading ladies drained, empty and out of gas at the final whistle.
With a sign of things not to come, it couldn’t have started better. Everton kicked off and immediately Reading FC won the ball back, attacked, and within 60 seconds, Lily Woodham was placing the ball for the first corner of the match. A minute later, however, Grace Moloney was picking the ball out of the back of her net. Tash Harding, with a dreadful bit of defending trying to control and shield the ball for the keeper but, instead, getting this completely wrong, pressed closely by Anna Anvegard who was gifted an opportunity to rifle the ball past the surprised Reading keeper. 0-1 to the visitors.
To compound matters, whilst this was happening, Deanna Cooper was still in the Everton half, lying on the floor injured. Although she valiantly continued on, within 10 minutes it was necessary for Cooper to substituted. Peplow came on and Vanhaevermaet dropped back from holding midfield to centre back.
Both teams shared a corner each, Everton toe-poking an effort just wide before a Reading attack saw the Everton keeper, Maclver, making a clearance just outside her penalty, with what looked like the use of her right arm but with the referee waving away the protests and appeals of the Reading players.
27 minutes in, Eikland on the attack threaded a ball to Rose who, from the byline, drilled the ball across the six-yard box but with no one to tap in.
A clash of heads between Sevecke and Tash Harding saw Tash leaving the pitch with what looked like a nasty cut, handing the captain's armband to Brooke Chaplen and Emma Harries replacing the Welsh international in a straight swap, wide on the left wing.
If the players and Kelly Chambers were thinking it wasn’t to be their day, this became ever worse when, on 37 minutes. Emma Harries carelessly lost the ball on the half-way line, Everton attacking with some quick one-touch football and a deft left-foot curling finish into the top corner by Claire Emslie to make it 0-2 to the visitors.
The goal didn’t dampen the spirits and atmosphere of the young loyal Royals who, from the restart, with a high-pitched cacophony of cheering and positivity, encouraged the team in hoops to push forward and stay in the match.
With eight minutes of time added on, reflecting the injuries in the first half, the storm clouds gathered and another down pour of rain started, in a sign of what was surely to come from Kelly Chambers in the half-time dressing room. Before Kelly could share her words of wisdom Everton had one more chance with a free kick near the corner of the Reading penalty area. The left-footed Danielle Turner took the opportunity to curl the ball over (or through?) the Reading defensive wall and take the Toffees in to an easy three-goal advantage after 45 (or rather 53) minutes.
The second half saw Everton make five substitutions during the remaining 45 minutes and, although Reading pressurised better, it was to no effect. Rose and Bryson, within seconds, of each other both had similar individual efforts, both cut in from the right and attempting left-footed shots that were blocked and comfortably saved, respectively.
It could have been worse with 15 minutes to go when Everton were awarded a soft penalty. Izzy Christiansen’s effort was saved by Grace Moloney diving to her right. The Reading keeper was called into action again, tipping a long-range effort from the goalscorer Emslie for a corner.
The opening four matches looked difficult on paper and have been disappointing on grass, leaving the Royals with zero points, at the bottom of the table and, perhaps even more worryingly, with no goals scored (and -10 goal difference). Today, they certainly had themselves to blame, not doing the basics well enough resulting in an uphill struggle from the second minute.
I found myself thinking about the possibility of being dragged into real contenders for relegation (too early for these thoughts surely?), and of the old adage about being on safari with a group of holiday makers being chased by a lion. You don’t have to be quickest of the group but, instead, at least the second slowest of the party. It’s only one team to go down right? So 11th in the league is, at least, a good starting point to aim for!