The Royals notched up a successive league victory, and their first win at the SCL since March 2023 (versus West Ham United in the WSL), with a goal from Tia Primmer in the 78th minute against Lewes this afternoon.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no changes by Liam Gilbert to the starting line-up which won away from home last week at Durham. The manager was also to strengthen the substitutes bench with Sanne Troelsgaard returning from her three-match suspension and Charlie Estcourt added among the eight substitutes.
Unless you follow women’s football, you wouldn’t automatically associate Lewes FC (nor last weekend’s Durham) with top-flight football - and I’m not sure many people could place Lewes on the map too. So although Lewes are currently bottom of the Championship, they’ve remained in the second tier since 2018/19 and are certainly punching above their weight when you look at some of the cities, towns and recognisable teams in tiers three and four.
Team 4-2-3-1: Orman (GK), Dugdale, Cooper (Troelsgaard, 56) , Houssein (Estcourt, 73), Primmer, Wade, Hendrix, Mayi Kith, Gregory (Jarvis, 90), Woodham (captain), Longhurst (Elwood, 73)
Unused subs: Annets (GK), Smith, Meadows Tuson, Cox
With a quarter of the league season completed it’s fair to say Reading don’t play their best football in the first half and today was no different. The home team struggled to get on top of a busy Lewes team and were unable to get any real passing momentum going.
There were a few moments to enjoy, with a good move on 19 minutes. Halle Houssein played the ball to Lauren Wade, then onto Primmer, whose cross from the right was headed wide by Josie Longhurst.
On the half-hour mark, the Royals’ pressure paid off with another good move from Freya Gregory passing to Wade, onto Primmer who cut in from the right to fire a left-foot shot, comfortably held by Sophie Whitehouse in the Lewes goal.
Reading’s best chance of the first half came in the 39th minute. A quick short-corner interchange with Deanna Cooper allowed Gregory to cut onto her favoured left foot, unleashing a shot which looked goalbound - only to be blocked, unwittingly, by the Reading striker Longhurst.
There were two yellow cards in the first half. One was a bizarre time-wasting caution for the Lewes goalkeeper, taking an age for a goal-kick, and one for Rachel Dugdale, harshly penalised for what looked like a tough but legal challenge.
Although Lewes enjoyed a lot of possession, there was fortunately no end product and Emily Orman in the Reading goal remained largely redundant throughout.
At the break it was goalless for the third time (and half of the matches) this season.
After the interval the Royals enjoyed a much improved second half, controlling the second 45 minutes with much better passing and the deserved winning goal.
Within minutes of the restart, Primmer charged upfield, sliding a delightful pass to Longhurst in the penalty area. The Reading striker was unable to get a good enough connection, with her effort saved by the Lewes goalkeeper, diving to her right.
Liam Gilbert took advantage of the options available on the bench and introduced Troelsgaard in the 56th minute, with a straight midfield swap for Cooper. Since boosting his squad at the end of the transfer window, this was a new luxury for the Reading manager - with Troelsgaard previously having been chosen to lead the forward line. The big Dane made an immediate impact, charging forward and being brought down with a shirt tug - and resultant yellow card - by Lewes’ Amelia Hazard.
On the hour mark, a Brooke Hendrix pass out of defence found Lily Woodham on the run. She put in a neat cross that was met perfectly by Wade, whose volleyed shot was acrobatically tipped over the crossbar by the Lewes goalkeeper. It was much better pressure and play from the home team who were really starting to impress.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Reading made two further changes, Amelia Elwood and Estcourt replacing Houssein and Longhurst. Again, the Reading manager was able to make two straight swaps and no change to the formation.
Within minutes, Reading got the goal they had been promising, with Primmer’s first of the season. Troelsgaard delivered the ball into the danger zone after some great work on the byline, and with Lewes under pressure they failed to clear Primmer’s first effort, with Primmer making no mistake with her second attempt, stabbing the ball in from close range at the near post to put the Royals in front. 1-0.
Although Lewes failed to register a shot on target there was one last-gasp scare (in the final minute of the five added) when the visitors flashed the ball across the whole of the six-yard box but, fortunately, no one was on the end of it.
Overall, it was a much better second-half performance with a team starting to play some really attractive football, attacking quickly and with a squad that now looks much stronger than at the start of the season, with eight substitutes named today (compared to Lewes’ five).
The Royals have now propelled themselves up to sixth place in the Championship and are only three points behind the leaders. Next up is Sunderland away, Sunday October 15, 2pm kick-off. See you there!