In-form Reading travelled to Everton today in the Women’s Super League, knowing that a victory could give them a chance of a top-four place and continue the dream of chasing a Champions League position. It was also a chance for the Royals to avenge the 3-0 defeat by Everton at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, back in October (during the horrible four-game defeat start to the season), which is also the last league match that the Royals have lost!
The Reading team lined up as they did against Birmingham City in the league, with Grace Moloney back between the posts after recovering from what looked like a very serious injury, when she was stretchered off on oxygen. Everton started the match with three changes and, in contrast, were third from bottom and with no permanent manager in place.
It was Everton that took a surprise 1-0 lead, getting into their stride early and scoring from a very well-worked corner. Claire Emslie exchanged a short corner with Kenza Dali to fire in a shot which Anna Anvegard prodded home. Everton continued to enjoy the opening 15 minutes, carving the Reading team open at will and seeing a header, from another corner, headed off the line by Gemma Evans.
Justine Vanhaevermaet had a couple of half chances, a right-footed effort and a header both wide of the Everton goal. Toni Duggan at the other end also just failed to get a good connection with a headed effort under good Reading defensive pressure.
The last five minutes of the first half saw pressure on both goals. Grace Moloney dived to her left to save a Danielle Turner shot from another Claire Emslie corner. Reading went into half time 1-0 down but at least ended with a bit of pressure on the Everton goalkeeper. First a long-range shot from Sanne Troelsgaard that Everton ‘keeper Sandy MacIver parried. MacIver was quickly called into action again with a couple of good, strong clearing punches from two Lily Woodham corners and Everton saw a last-ditch goal-line clearance by Nathalie Bjorn after a very close-range effort from Natasha Dowie.
It’s fair to say that although the women’s game is rightly gaining momentum and growing in popularity, there’s a long way to go and a lot of catching up to do since Everton’s Goodison Park Boxing Day crowd of 1920 that saw an attendance of 53,000. As nice as Everton Women’s home stadium (Walton Hall Park) is, it isn’t what you would expect a Super League stadium to look.
On what even Winnie the Pooh would struggle to describe as a blustery day, there was winds gusting up to 50 mph, corner flags at 45 degrees and the surroundings and pitch were open to the elements. It’s open land behind Grace Moloney’s goal, complete with a person casually walking their dog while watching the first half.
The second half started in similar fashion with Everton enjoying three corners in the opening 10 minutes and a penalty, after Lily Woodham was deemed to have handled the ball. Everton captain Izzy Christiansen stepped up to take the penalty which was saved by Moloney diving to her left. Deja vu for Christiansen who also saw her effort in the October fixture saved by the Reading keeper. A lifeline and let-off for the Royals to hopefully build upon.
On the hour mark Rachel Rowe came off the bench, making a long-awaited welcome return, her first time back in the squad since October. She replaced Emma Harries who, unusually, had a very quiet and ineffective match by her recent standards. Rowe immediately brought some much needed energy to the team in all yellow.
Everton quickly made three substitutions. Nathalie Bjorn went off injured, Toni Duggan and surprisingly Claire Emslie also left the field of play, the latter of whom I’m sure Reading will have been delighted with, having caused no end of chaos and problems to the Royals’ defence.
The Royals were now very much on the front foot, piling on pressure with Natasha Dowie first seeing a right-footed shot wide of the goal and another long-range effort high and wide. Dowie didn’t have to wait long for another chance and, after a Sanne Troelsgaard interception in midfield, Dowie saw her long-range shot bounce in front and over the Everton keeper, who really should have done better, to put the Royals level at 1-1 and 15 minutes left to play.
A special mention should also be made for Deanne Rose who works tirelessly for the team and is a great outlet holding and running with the ball. She’s also very comfortable with both feet, which is a rare talent to see on any football pitch.
Kelly Chambers, looking for the winner, introduced Tia Primmer on 82 minutes, replacing the solid defensive midfielder Justine Vanhaevermaet. Primmer scored her first senior and winning goal last weekend in the FA Cup victory away to Brighton, just minutes after coming on.
It was another eventful introduction today, firstly picking up a yellow card within two minutes and, with just two minutes remaining, in another deja vu moment, Primmer scored her first Super League goal. Her shot finished in the right-hand corner of the Everton goal to win the match 2-1.
This meant Kelly Chambers’ Reading team extend their unbeaten league run to a very impressive eight matches and continue their record of now five wins on the bounce. Next weekend’s match is back to The People’s Pension Stadium with the Royals looking to repeat the result they enjoyed only a week ago in the FA Cup!
Thank you to Marc Mayo for the invite to The Tilehurst End podcast on Monday, and making time to discuss Reading Women’s success. Much-appreciated indeed and, with this form, hopefully something that we can revisit in the future.