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Cheltenham Town Ladies 0-4 Reading Women: Match Report

Deanna Cooper, Lauren Wade and Charlie Wellings (x2) were the scorers in a comfortable away win for the Royals in the cup.

Cheltenham Town Ladies v Reading Women - Adobe Women’s FA Cup Third Round Photo by Ryan Hiscott - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Reading Women progressed through to round four of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup with a hard-fought but comfortable 4-0 victory, away to Cheltenham Town Ladies, at Kayte Lane, Bishops Cleeve this afternoon.

It was the first competitive meeting for the two teams, with Cheltenham mid-table in the Southern Premier Division, tier three of the National League.

Two early goals in each half (Deanna Cooper and Lauren Wade in the opening 45 minutes and a quick brace from Charlie Wellings just after the restart) were enough for the Royals to take the sting out of the match - against a very combative home side that continued to fight until the last kick of the match.

Team: Orman, Dugdale (Mayi-Kith, 64) Hendrix, Cooper (Smith, 64), Woodham (Captain) (Troelsgaard, 73) Estcourt (Gregory, 73), Houssein, Perry, Primmer, Wade (Jarvis, 77), Wellings

Subs unused: Wilson, Elwood, Longhurst

Yellow cards: Houssen 67, Smith 71 and Mayi-Kith 90

If Reading didn’t already know they were going to be involved in a hard-fought battle, they did within the opening minutes of the first half. In the third minute, Cooper, under pressure, lost the ball to Phoebie Poole, who unleashed a shot which fortunately went straight into the arms of Reading goalkeeper Emily Orman.

Just minutes later, Cheltenham’s number two, Jones, was shown a yellow card for a cynical foul on Royals captain Lily Woodham, with the free-kick resulting in a corner that was converted by Cooper at the back post, heading across goal, with the Cheltenham defence unable to clear off the line. 1-0 to the visitors.

Before Reading doubled the score, it was the much-talked-about Cheltenham striker Poole who came close again. This time her strike, from outside the penalty area, hit the angle of the Reading post and crossbar.

The home fans’ reaction went from applause to stunned silence within seconds when Reading reacted immediately with a lightning-quick counter attack involving Woodham, Halle Houssein, Wellings and finally Wade, who cut in from the left to coolly slot the ball past Cheltenham goalkeeper Watson to put the Royals 2-0 ahead - and all within the opening 12 minutes of the match!

The two-goal cushion seemed to take some of the early fight out of the home team, allowing Reading to control and dictate the remainder of the (largely uneventful) first half, with the Reading defence and goalkeeper untroubled.

Cheltenham were dealt another blow when their main threat, Poole, had to be substituted after just 24 minutes. It was a shame from a spectator point of view too, as she looked a real handful and challenge, and it would have been interesting to see how the Reading defence dealt with this.

Half-time: Cheltenham 0-2 Reading

If Liam Gilbert’s half-time team talk was something along the lines of “go out and get it all done early”, then this was executed, precisely within the opening four minutes, with a Wellings brace (that should really have been a hat-trick).

Within three minutes of the restart, Maddie Perry saw her shot saved by the Cheltenham goalkeeper, but with Wellings able to pounce on the rebound to side-foot into the net for a 3-0 lead.

Within a minute, it was Wellings again who fired home, this time a delightful strike from just outside the edge of the right-hand side of the penalty area. 4-0 and game over.

Although Wellings will be pleased with a brace (especially after her first start since returning from injury), she will also be disappointed she couldn’t make it three, with her penalty saved by the Cheltenham goalkeeper on the hour mark, after Tia Primmer was fouled in the area.

Both sides used their quota of substitutes and, although Cheltenham never stopped battling, the damage was already done. The second half pretty much mirrored the first, with Reading earning the right to be comfortably in control.

The home side should have scored what would have probably been a consolation goal when, on 70 minutes, Orman’s punch went straight to Cheltenham substitute Ackerman, but she was unable to get her left-foot shot on target, going wide of what was an empty Reading goal.

It’s been a long wait since the postponed Blackburn Rovers match (November 19), and with three matches in ‘a week’ (eight days really…), it’s great to get off to a good start and for Gilbert to have a nearly full squad to select from - with Wellings and Perry back from injuries.

It was also great to see Madison (Maddie) Perry with her first start of the season, after a long-term injury. The young striker has been with the club since the age of 13 and STAR have chosen to sponsor her this season. I recently got the opportunity to chat to her and, if you haven’t seen it already, check out the STAR website for the Q&A interview. She’s a great character, focused and professional, and it was a privilege (and a lot of fun) to talk to her.

Reading are in the hat for the fourth-round draw (scheduled to be played mid-January), but before then we’ve got the small feat of Conti Cup action away to WSL side Bristol City (Wednesday December 13, 19:30 kick-off) and Crystal Palace at the SCL stadium next Sunday (December 17, 13:00 kick-off). See you there!