I haven’t checked the head-to-head stats but, to me anyway, West Ham Women feel like a bogey team. Maybe it’s because I can’t forget (or move on?) from that FA Cup semi final, at Adams Park Wycombe, in April 2019 when the Royals outplayed the Hammers for 120 minutes, missed a penalty in normal time, had two other good penalty shouts denied and, to add insult to injury (literally), lost the penalty shoot-out! Or it could be the last league match and memory of the 5-0 defeat at the (then) Madejski Stadium…
The Royals winning today would not only complete a hat-trick of league victories on the bounce, but it would also see the blue and white hoops leapfrog in-form West Ham, after a tricky start to Reading’s league campaign. There was just one change, with Chloe Peplow replacing the presumably injured Deanna Cooper.
After a lively opening start to the match Deanne Rose, on 19 mins, found herself with only the keeper to beat, after a great pass between the two Hammers centre backs, but failed to take the opportunity, with goalkeeper Arnold blocking her effort. Reading were made to rue this chance immediately when, within seconds, West Ham attacked and Lisa Evans crossed from the left for Katrina Svitkova to head home from close range. 1-0 to the home team.
With confidence and energy flowing, West Ham piled on the pressure. On 26 mins a pass from Evans found Walker in space and the West Ham striker forced a great save by Grace Moloney diving to her right. Just three mins later Reading were fortunate again when Svitkova put a shot just wide of the upright. Tash Harding ‘took one for the team’, picking up a yellow card after a cynical foul on the galloping-through Lisa Evans.
10 mins before half time and the Hammers found themselves 2-0 up. A deep corner was crossed back in from the left and Grace Frisk headed home scoring her first goal for West Ham in the right end, after an own goal v Arsenal last weekend.
A half-time Reading substitution meant Lily Woodham being replaced by Emma Harries but the second-half flow didn’t change. The Royals were riding their luck first with a last-ditch header on the goal-line from Bryson, a near-miss header quickly followed by Walker hitting the cross bar when she really should have done better.
Reading were given a lifeline on 70 minutes when a Faye Bryson free kick created the third headed goal of the match, netted by the towering Justine Vanhaevermaet. 2-1.
West Ham looked like they were heading to their first, surprisingly (from my opening comments), WSL home win over Reading. With six minutes of time added on (correctly after some very slow play and time-sapping West Ham substitutions) Deanne Rose twisted and turned nicely and put in a left foot cross for Emma Harries to poke goal-bound, immediately celebrating, arms aloft, that the goal had crossed the line - despite the best efforts of keeper Arnold. The linesman thankfully concurred and Reading found themselves 2-2.
A very entertaining match and I’m guessing the vast majority of the 1,496 crowd will be wondering how West Ham failed to secure all three points. With early results now completed the Royals find themselves eighth in the league, undefeated in their last three league matches and with the late equaliser surely won’t even find the M25 Sunday traffic too bad…