Reading left the Amex Stadium empty handed and disappointed after a largely wasted and sloppy first half, the match finishing 2-1 to the home side in front of a 5,200 jubilant crowd. A late, late goal by substitute Charlie Wellings, four minutes into time added on, proved only to be a consolation in a match where Reading must have been hoping to get something from this fixture and kickstart their WSL season.
The Royals made life difficult for themselves by conceding a soft goal on 40 minutes. Grace Moloney failed to get enough on the ball and her parried clearance fell to Brighton & Hove Albion striker Guem-Min Lee who finished easily past the stranded keeper and defence.
There had been some early warning signs with Diane Caldwell, making her Reading WSL debut, first receiving a yellow card, after only 10 minutes. She was then very lucky to get away with a poor lunging bit of defending where Katie Robinson of Brighton really should have done better - her shot saved well by Moloney. It didn’t stop there, this time Rachel Rowe needlessly giving the ball away and the Seagulls’ shot was blocked by Deanna Cooper for a corner.
As half an hour approached, a long ball over the top found Geum-Min Lee in space and her effort was saved by the Reading keeper. Moloney was being tested and some brave goalkeeping saw her briefly injured while stopping a lunging effort from Elisabeth Terland who found herself cautioned for a reckless challenge.
The first half saw the Royals starting in another 3-4-3 formation. However, with four changes to the starting line-up from last weekend’s defeat to Manchester United, there was some further unexpected repositioning from Kelly Chambers.
Diane Caldwell was included in the three central defenders alongside Deanna Cooper and captain Emma Mukandi. Gemma Evans moved to left back and surprisingly Lily Woodham joined the front three (on the left). Tia Primmer replaced Sanne Troelsgaard in midfield. Lauren Wade and Charlie Welling dropped to the bench and with Deanne Rose injured, it was Natasha Dowie and Faye Bryson completing the changes.
Reading thought they’d taken the lead, after 27 minutes, with a Rachel Rowe free kick headed in by a celebrating Deanna Cooper only to see the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside.
At half-time Kelly Chambers made a tactical change, bringing on Lauren Wade for the struggling Caldwell. Gemma Evans and Lily Woodham returned to their more familiar roles and Lauren Wade played in the front three. The change appeared to make a big difference and the positivity, effort and movement saw a much better second half from the Royals, streaming forward in their pink away kit.
Natasha Dowie looked odds on to score after some great work and a shot by Tia Primmer with Megan Walsh somehow blocking this for a Royals corner. A Lily Woodham inswinger was acrobatically put over the bar by Gemma Evans who didn’t know that Tia Primmer was in a better position to finish. Deanna Cooper rushed and slashed an effort over the crossbar too. Natasha Dowie saw another good opportunity saved and this was her last effort before being substituted for Charlie Wellings, Reading’s late but first goalscorer of the season.
The second killer goal came from a Brighton counter attack, Geum-Min Lee unselfishly passing to Katie Robinson to slot home.
Although Brighton and Hove Albion have big ambitions and plans (to finish in the top four soon) Reading will no doubt be leaving disappointed as this is a team in their peer group and mini league within the WSL.
Amalie Eikeland will also be pleased to see that back of this stadium - after being a substitute during Englands demolition 8-0 defeat of Norway in the Euro’s back in July the England Lionesses back in July.