It was the turn of Reading Women to visit St Andrew’s, Birmingham, near enough 24 hours after the men’s team visited yesterday, hoping to also come away with an away victory and three much-needed points.
Birmingham kicked off a long-awaited match, following an international break and four weeks since the Royals impressive league victory against Aston Villa (and forgettable cup defeat versus Bristol City).
With both teams in similar league positions, occupying two of the bottom three places, it was perhaps not a surprise to find the first half cautious and not much between the two teams during the opening 45 minutes. The Royals however started brightly, earning a first-minute corner and nearly a very early lead with a close-range effort, just wide from Vanhaevermaet, following a shot from Chaplen.
Reading dominated early on, Birmingham enjoying more possession towards the end of the half but with the Royals comfortably in control at the back. Kelly Chambers’ team formation was impressive today and therefore deserving of much credit for today’s result too. Vanhaevermaet joined the centre backs of Cooper and Evans when Reading attacked, allowing the team to use the whole of the pitch with width, attacking options and creativity from the likes of Woodham (in a more offensive role today), Eikeland and right back, Bryson all getting in to good forward positions.
In time added on Birmingham were to rue a missed opportunity, from Smith, as within two minutes of the start of the second half, the Royals opened the scoring after a well-worked corner from Bryson, a header from Evans was saved on the line, only to see Tash Dowie finish from close range. 0-1 to the Royals.
The Royals continued to keep up the pressure with Rose heading wide from a Tash Harding cross from the left. From the resultant goal kick, Reading immediately won the ball back and a superb move saw Chaplen on the attack, a pass to Eikeland, who put in a perfect cross to Rose, losing her defenders to head in unmarked at the near post. 0-2 with the team in yellow looking like they were comfortably on their way to victory.
A substitution and a bit of pressure meant Birmingham won a corner but Grace Moloney was equal to this punching the ball away to safety.
The energetic Rose (who picked up a yellow card following a late tackle) was quickly on the attack again, this time seeing a left-foot shot, from just outside the box, sail just over the crossbar. Within a minute, Rose found herself on the scoresheet again, after a long ball pass from Gemma Evans wasn’t dealt with by the Birmingham keeper and the alert Deanne Rose, capitalised on the error to finish superbly from a tight angle to grab a brace today. 0-3 to the Royals and surely all over?
Late substitutions from Birmingham didn’t change the momentum. Reading cruised to a well-earned victory, giving Kelly Chambers the luxury to change her attacking goal scorers and attacking options, with substitutions seeing Tash Dowie replaced by Emma Harries, Deanne Rose making way to Tia Primmer for her senior debut and Lily Woodham replaced by Peplow.
An impressive and enjoyable afternoon of football with a clean sheet to top it off. I’m sure the City of Birmingham will also pleased to see the back of all Reading Football Club teams this weekend! Next up is another tricky away fixture, at West Ham United, but with the players and fans hopefully taking some well-earned confidence into next Sunday’s match.