Reading enjoyed the better of the chances in this afternoon’s relegation battle (too early to mention?) against Watford, but lacked the clinical edge to take the points, with the match finishing all square and goalless at the full-time whistle.
Although the Royals were dominant in the number of opportunities, neither team created clear-cut chances and a draw was probably a fair result against a dogged Watford opposition.
Liam Gilbert kept faith and reverted to the team that started (and lost) at Birmingham City last weekend (or eight changes from the midweek Conti Cup match against Southampton on Wednesday) and was boosted to see the return of captain Lily Woodham, after coming off injured in the last Championship match.
Team 4-2-3-1: Orman (GK), Dugdale, Cooper (Perry, 85), Primmer, Wade (Wellings 85), Hendrix, Mayi Kith, Estcourt, Gregory (Longhurst, 70), Woodham (Captain), Troelsgaard
Unused subs: Kite (GK), Houssein, Smith, Wilson, Jarvis, Elwood,
Yellow cards: Gregory, 61
Reading controlled the first half, were more decisive on the ball and looked dangerous on the attack.
On 19 minutes, a pass from Woodham found Tia Primmer centrally, just outside the penalty area, where her shot was punched away by the Watford goalkeeper, Jacqueline Goldsmid, diving to her left.
Troelsgaard, back in the central-defence role today, unleashed another Primmer attack, this time running into the box from the right-hand side, with her angled shot lacking power and saved comfortably by the Watford goalkeeper.
Charlie Estcourt missed a great opportunity to break the deadlock on 35 minutes, when she was unable to control what looked like a super pass from Freya Gregory on the left. Just before the break, Estcourt saw her header fly over the crossbar, after another cross from the left, this time from Lauren Wade.
Watford didn’t possess much of a threat in the opening 45 minutes. Their best chance came on the half-hour mark, when the Royals’ defence allowed Watford’s busy striker, Bianca Baptiste, to turn on the penalty spot and get a shot off which, luckily, flew over the crossbar.
It was a familiar story to other performances. Even with the pressure of six first-half Reading corners, they didn’t really look like scoring or creating much, with the Watford defence generally marshalling and clearing the ball away with some ease.
The second half started well for the Royals when it looked like Primmer was going to put the home side in front. Her first effort was saved by Baptiste at close range and, when the ball rebounded back to the Reading striker, she hurriedly snatched at the second attempt, with her shot flying wide of the gaping Watford net - most of the on-watching spectators hands aloft in ready celebration.
After this early opportunity, it was Watford that settled back into the match, enjoying the best of the next 30 minutes. In a similar pattern to the first half, the visitors enjoyed six second-half corners (compared to two from Reading), also without threatening much.
On the hour mark the Reading defence was caught napping, with Watford able to get behind the Royals’ right-back. The cut-back found Lucia Leon in the penalty area; her effort was eventually defended and clipped over the crossbar for a Watford corner.
Gilbert made the first of three changes on 70 minutes, replacing Gregory (who was booked 10 minutes earlier), with Josie Longhurst, taking up a similar position on the left. Gregory left the field with frustrations clearly showing, refusing the bib handed to her and promptly running down the tunnel (she did return to the bench later…)
With 15 minutes remaining, Reading started to get back into the match. First Primmer headed over from an Estcourt cross and, shortly after coming close, following a great move from Longhurst she found Woodham, who slid the ball across the goal, only to see the Watford defender lunge in with a last-ditch tackle and narrowly beat Primmer to what would have been a certain goal.
Although not ideal, the Royals’ fourth draw of the season keeps them five points ahead of Watford, six ahead of Lewes (who lost to Crystal Palace) - both in the relegation positions. Perhaps just as importantly, it stops the run of five defeats in all competitions.
Next Sunday, November 19, is the midway point of the season and, thankfully, the last of the long trips up north, away to mid-table Blackburn Rovers, for a 2pm kick-off. See you there!