A late, late goal from the Foxes’ Carrie Jones, in the 96th minute of the match, dashed Reading’s hopes of picking up their first away point of the season and, instead, means a disastrous 2-1 defeat to fellow relegation battlers Leicester.
This now sets up an even more tense, anxious and desperate relegation battle for the Royals, with just five matches remaining, and it looks extremely difficult with the remaining fixtures to come.
The Royals now have the unenviable statistic of losing all nine of their away fixtures in the WSL. If there’s any silver lining from today, three of their remaining fixtures are at home, but they’re against tough opposition: Everton, Aston Villa and Chelsea (on the final day of the season). The two away matches are against Manchester City and fellow strugglers Tottenham Hotspur (who are only one point above Reading in the league).
After rescuing a valuable home point last weekend, against Brighton & Hove Albion, Kelly Chambers made two changes to the starting line-up today. Possibly both forced by injuries to centre backs, Brooke Hendrix came in for Gemma Evans (on the substitutes bench) and Emma Harries replaced Easther Mayi Kith (who was missing from the squad). Lily Woodham must also be carrying an injury, with strapping just above her left knee, and did not feature for any free-kick or corner-taking duty this afternoon. It was an attacking 4-3-3 formation with Sanne Troelsgaard leading the line, flanked by Charlie Wellings and Emma Harries.
Team: Moloney (GK), Woodham, Hendrix (Evans, 77), Mukandi, Bryson, Rowe, Eikeland, Moore, Harries (Vanhaevermaet, 71), Troelsgaard, Wellings (Wade, 90+1)
Substitutes not used: Poulter (GK), Caldwell, Elwood, Perry
Although Reading started the match with some good attacking and corner pressure - including a good headed effort by Charlie Wellings, saved by Leicester goalkeeper Janina Leitzig - it was the home team that opened the scoring.
A deep cross from Leicester’s left back, Courtney Nevin, was met by Sam Tierney who, with not enough pressure on her, was able to volley her side-foot shot back across the goal of Grace Moloney and into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead and cheers from the home fans within the King Power Stadium.
As half-time approached it looked like the Royals were going to be unable to find an equaliser, with their best efforts being a couple of long-range shots, both well wide of the goal, from Charlie Wellings (37 minutes) and Amalie Eikeland (40 minutes).
However, with five minutes of time added on, Wellings popped up in the Leicester penalty area to draw the Royals level for the break. Rachel Rowe marauded into the hosts’ box and released the ball where Emma Harries shielded this for an Amelie Eikeland shot that deflected to Wellings - who made no mistake and drilled the ball into the corner of the goal from close range for 1-1.
It was a tense second half with continuous pressure, chances on the Reading goal and pretty much one-way traffic of attack from the home side. It’s difficult to argue that Leicester didn’t deserve their late winner as they enjoyed many chances throughout.
Sam Tierney came close several times with a shot saved well by the left foot of Moloney at the near post. The Reading goalkeeper was called into action with a double effort from Jones - her first attempt parried by Moloney straight back to her and the second attempt drilled across the goal and nearly turned into her own net by the reaching leg of Emma Harries.
Reading were hanging on as the hosts continued to push forward in an attempt to grab valuable home points. Jade Moore headed off the goal line from a Courtney Nevin corner, and Remy Siemsen was unlucky after cutting in from the right and seeing her left-foot attempt hit the far-post upright - to the relief of the Royals’ defence.
Unfortunately for the Royals, Leicester didn’t appear downhearted - so it didn’t stop there. Jones and Hannah Cain had headers just wide, Ruby Mace put an effort over the bar (after some good defensive pressure from Amelie Eikeland) and, again, Cain should really have done better when she found herself with only Moloney to beat - but the Reading goalkeeper stuck out a right foot this time to keep the Royals hanging on with just seconds of normal time remaining.
There were a lot of injuries in the second half which meant a minimum of 12 minutes of time to be added on - 12 minutes that the Royals (and Royals fans) didn’t want and which proved fatal.
In the sixth minute of time added on Jones delivered the knockout blow, finishing from close range inside the Reading penalty area, after some good work by Sam Tierney and Cain to get the ball to her. Cue scenes of jubilation from the Leicester players, fans erupting, and a lot of looking at the floor from the Reading team.
Although Rachel Rowe tried another of her late rescuing efforts on goal - which curled past the post - and the Royals enjoyed another four corners, the home team defended well to get over the line with a 2-1 victory.
Richie Watkins was the referee today and he did like a yellow card or two, brandishing two bookings a piece and one more for the Reading assistant manager. I mention this because Lily Woodham will certainly find herself hard done by after picking up a card for simulation (41 minutes), when it looked like she had been clipped by former Royal Sophie Howard.
As is commonplace in the WSL, Kelly Chambers, the team and the Loyal Royal fans now find themselves with another long and reflective wait period until their next fixture - Sunday April 23 (2pm kick-off) against Everton at the SCL Stadium.
With a one-point lead over Leicester and a two-point gap to now bottom-of-the-table Brighton (who play one of their two matches in hand against Everton on April 19), strap yourself in for an exciting (if that’s how to describe it?) rollercoaster ride to the end of the season! See you there.