A month since their last league match, in-form (I’m ignoring the Conti Cup blip and exit) Reading took on Leicester City, with fans expecting a very happy start to the new year.
On a rare but welcome glorious winter’s afternoon, sun shining and blue skies prevailing, Leicester kicked off, after Reading presumably won the toss and chose to change ends to protect Grace Moloney from the winter sunshine.
There were two changes from Reading’s well-earned and deserved victory against Chelsea, with new signing Sanne Troelsgaard making her debut and Deanna Cooper returning to the heart of defence replacing Faye Bryson and Chloe Peplow absent from the bench today too.
The opening three minutes saw the Royals caught offside three times, showing their attacking hand early with Deanne Rose, Emma Harries and Tash Dowie all looking to find space behind the high defensive line of Leicester City.
It was, however, Leicester that had the first free kick attempt and shots, with Leicester’s Molly Pike blazing an effort high over the goal.
On 11 minutes, Reading sprung the offside trap and Tash Dowie ran on to a great pass. On the left side of the pitch, controlled and composed, she looked up and produced a perfect sublime finish to lob the ball over the the Leicester keeper and into the net to put the Royals 1-0 up.
An injury allowed time for the Leicester players to have a quick regroup, huddle and team talk, with Esmee De Graaf almost immediately getting to the goal line and whipping in a low cross across the box with thankfully no Leicester strikers on hand to finish the good move.
On 29 minutes, Leicester’s Abbie McManus was adjudged to have tripped Tash Dowie and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty. Tash Dowie stepped up and struck the penalty only to see Demi Lambourne dive to her right and tip the ball around the post. Maybe a just reward for what looked a very soft and perhaps harsh penalty decision?
Emma Harries nearly doubled the lead with a run cutting in from the right and terrific strike from a tight angle that hit the crossbar, with Amalie Eikeland’s rebound effort going just wide.
Reading went into half-time looking in full control, with most of the Leicester pressure seemingly coming from their own mistakes and errors when trying to pass out of defence.
At the start of the second half the sun had set below the stadium, the temperature dropped and the clouds started to gather as the fans got behind The Royals hoping not to rue the possession and missed, or rather, saved penalty chance. There were two substitutions at half time: Abbie Grant making way for Leicester’s Freya Gregory and Beth Roberts replacing Deanna Cooper (only just back from injury).
Tash Dowie finished nicely to put the ball in the back of the net early in the second half but her effort came to nothing, correctly being ruled offside. This, unfortunately, was not a sign of further things to come and the second half was largely dominated by Leicester pressing Reading for an equaliser.
It was Leicester who continued to grow in confidence, passing the ball around quickly, pressurising the Reading defence and belying their league-table position. Shannon O’Brien with a long range strike and Esmee De Graaf both failed to finish good attempts for the Foxes.
Tash Dowie had perhaps the best chance of the second half for The Royals, after a great move saw Emma Harries cross from the right, but Tash’s close-range right-foot effort was saved by Demi Lambourne, making herself too big a target to get past.
Although Leicester continued to push on, the Reading defence again held strong, keeping another clean sheet and seeing out a 1-0 win and continued impressive run of form. They rise to a similarly impressive sixth place in the league too.
One small comment for the Select Car Leasing Stadium team to take on board (if they get to read this…) was that the gates at Shooters Way entrance were locked both for cars and pedestrians. The former I can understand but for the the latter it means fans have to walk all the way around three quarters of the stadium to get into and exit the turnstile. It’s not a deal-breaker but, as I told the ‘fans support’ steward, it does seem to demonstrate a further lack of thinking, empathy and respect for fans by the club. Surely the club want to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for fans to watch a match? It’s a spectator sport after all…