Reading Women made it back-to-back wins with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Select Car Leasing Stadium in today’s early WSL kick-off. The match was decided by an own goal from Spurs defender Amy Turner early in the match and the Royals hung on, towards the end, as the visitors pushed for an equaliser.
Reading lined up in a now familiar 4-1-3-2 formation and although Kelly Chambers talked mid-week about selection problems (being a nice problem to have), there were some surprising absentees this afternoon with Emma Mukandi, Rachel Rowe, Natasha Dowie and Grace Moloney all missing from the squad. That meant young Hannah Poulter was once again the senior reserve goalkeeper and Emma Harries was given the responsibility of captaining the team for the first time. There was also a bit of a colour clash with Spurs’ away kit being blue (the Royals’ home kit now including blue shorts and blue socks).
Team: Burns, Woodham, Evans, Cooper, Bryson, Vanhaevermaet, Primmer, Troelsgaard, Eikeland, Harries (Captain), Wade
The first half was largely dominated by the Royals and they will have certainly felt unlucky to not have gone into the break with a bigger margin. Kelly Chambers and the players had spoken pre-match about the change in confidence – particularly after the win against Southampton in the Conti Cup last weekend – and the belief was palpable in this performance this afternoon.
For a competitive match it was surprising that no one received a yellow card, and both Ashleigh Neville and Faye Bryson came the closest to picking up a caution. The two players enjoyed a great battle and duel for most of the match (Neville switching to right back following a substitution) with the Reading right back largely coming out on top in what was a very good all-round performance from her. With Emma Mukandi returning to the squad, Faye Bryson has been very unlucky not to have started more matches this season so she has laid down another reminder, and it’s a nice problem to have for the team selection.
The deciding and only goal of the match came after just 12 minutes. Tia Primmer’s excellent strike, from a central position on the edge of the penalty area, was tipped onto the cross bar by Spurs goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer and back into play. Under pressure, Spurs defender Amy Turner appeared to panic and head the ball the way she was facing – goal-bound – and past her struggling goalkeeper into the empty net. 1-0 to the home team and a good position to build upon.
And build upon they did! This important goal appeared to boost the Royals’ confidence levels further. Within minutes, attacking midfielder Sanne Troelsgaard had a right-foot shot saved by the legs of Rebecca Spencer and, unfortunately, lost a bit of composure when the ball rebounded back to her to set up another chance.
On the half-hour mark Tia Primmer found room down the left wing and executed a perfect cross, met by Emma Harries, with her effort also hitting the cross bar but, this time, falling to safety for the relieved Spurs goalkeeper.
Just before then, Reading were unlucky not to win a penalty. Sanne Troelsgaard looked to have beaten the Spurs defender to the ball, was then caught by a trailing leg and tumbled to ground – but the referee saw it differently and waved it away.
With most of the pressure coming from the Royals, Emma Harries came close with header not far over the crossbar from a Faye Bryson cross.
The closest Tottenham came was from a counter attack in the 32nd minute. Ashleigh Neville found herself in space, cutting in from the left wing, to get the ball back on to her favoured right foot – but her shot was blocked and defended well by the recovering Faye Bryson and out for a corner.
Kelly Chambers certainly appears to be unlucky with injuries and at half time brought on centre back Diane Caldwell for Deanna Cooper.
Reading started the second half as they had left off the first with a couple of early attempts. A cross whipped in by left back Lily Woodham was defended well and headed over the Spurs goal by Asmita Ale. Sanne Troelsgaard came close with a turn and shot (not dissimilar to last week’s goal against the Saints) and, within minutes, had another attempt where the Danish international just couldn’t get enough on the ball to finish from close range.
The missed chances of both the first and second halves meant a nervy end to the game with Tottenham pushing for the equaliser. The visitors came close several times – striker Drew Spence looking like she would score but, mercifully, losing her footing, from a position pretty much on the penalty spot. Drew also saw another shot comfortably saved by Jacqueline Burns, in the Reading goal, after Ashleigh Neville had teed a shot up for her.
Royals substitutions included a fatigued and cramp-ridden Emma Harries being replaced by Charlie Wellings on 74 minutes (the captaincy passing to Justine Vanhaevermaet), and with five minutes of time to be added on, Tia Primmer was swapped for Becky Jane to see out the match.
It was a tense finish with Justine Vanhaevermaet clearing a header at the near post and some more brave defending by Faye Bryson, getting a knock as a reward for her efforts in the process.
This afternoon was the last home match of 2022 and it was therefore a disappointing crowd of only 1,052 that witnessed a super team performance from the Royals – and a hard and well earned 1-0 win which means Reading now have seven points, leapfrogging Brighton and Hove Albion and, importantly, there’s now a seven-point gap to bottom team Leicester.
There were also some stand-out performances from the likes of Tia Primmer, Sanne Troelsgaard, Faye Bryson, Amalie Eikeland and Lily Woodham. Reading goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns also appears to grow in confidence with each match she plays.
2022 finishes with Chelsea away next Sunday (6.45pm kick-off) and the last match of the Conti Cup group match also away to Coventry on Friday December 16, 7pm kick-off.