Royals fans face another nerve-racking end to the season, this time with Reading FC Women, who this afternoon lost 4-1 to title-chasing Manchester City at the Academy Stadium.
Kelly Chambers’ team started the match bottom of the WSL and two points adrift of safety, after Leicester FC registered an impressive 4-0 win over Liverpool yesterday afternoon to leave the Royals in a desperate position with matches running out.
With the enviable home record of Manchester City, and Reading’s hopeless and equally unenviable away record, Royals fans knew something extra special would be required to get anything out of today’s WSL match.
Team: Moloney, Mayi Kith, Caldwell, Mukandi, Primmer (Moore, 55) Troelsgaard (Hendrix, 87), Vanhaevermaet (Perry, 87) , Harries (Wade, 73), Eikeland, Rowe, Wellings
Subs not used: Poulter (GK), Bryson, Evans, Jane, Alexander
In a surprising but similar style to last weekend (vs Everton), Reading were out of the blocks the quicker of the two teams and stunned the home side - opening the scoring within the first minute - to gain a 1-0 lead, as well as some hope and confidence to build upon.
Early pressure from Charlie Wellings and Tia Primmer saw the ball break loose to Sanne Troelsgaard, who turned and planted a great left-foot shot into the bottom corner to the surprise of the Manchester City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
Primmer put herself under some early pressure by picking up a silly yellow card in the fourth minute, after a late, perhaps overly enthusiastic, tackle on Roebuck while the goalkeeper was clearing the ball near the corner flag.
It took the home side just 15 minutes to draw level with a very scrappy equaliser. Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw was too much of a handful for Diane Caldwell to control and the ball was somehow swiped past Grace Moloney at the near post by Chloe Kelly. 1-1.
With the likes of players such as Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood, Lauren Hemp and Kelly (and that’s just the England internationals), it was - perhaps unsurprisingly - clear throughout the match that Manchester City had the talent and skill with which to open up the Royals’ defence and create chances.
The home side are not, however, afraid to go long when required. And why wouldn’t you when you have the 6ft tall imposing target of Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw to aim at (with Andy-Carroll-like heading quality in the air)? It was very much this quality on display to put Manchester City into a 2-1 lead, on 24 minutes, with Shaw rising above Caldwell to nod home from a Greenwood corner.
On the half-hour mark, Reading had a great chance to equalise when City goalkeeper Roebuck dwelled on the ball and Troelsgaard robbed it from her. The Reading and Danish international striker turned quickly but saw her shot saved by the recovering Roebuck, with the goal beckoning.
Although Reading started the second half brightly, with a Primmer long-range effort going just over the crossbar, it was like shooting practice for Manchester City for pretty much the remainder of the game. A combination of missed chances from City and some scrambled and last-ditch defending by the Royals kept the score vaguely respectable.
Just two minutes into the restart, Kelly found herself in space down the Reading left-hand side, and passed the ball across the goal for a sliding tap-in at the back post by Hemp. 3-1.
Reading replied immediately with a Sanne Troelsgaard shot which deflected off the midriff of Greenwood for a corner, and the resultant delivery was headed over by Justine Vanhaevermaet. That was it for the Royals with one-way traffic thereafter.
It will be interesting to hear what Kelly Chambers says in her post-match interview, but I expect she and the Reading team will be pleased to finish the match with this scoreline.
Kelly and Shaw, on another day, could have been arguing over who took the match ball home. Hemp hit the post and there were many many other attempts that thankfully went wide, somehow.
The home side completed their scoring from a free-kick by Houghton with 20 minutes still remaining. She curled her right-foot shot over the Reading wall from outside of the penalty area.
With time running out and only three matches remaining, it’s difficult to see where Reading will pick up the necessary points to lift them from the bottom of the table.
The final match of the season is at home to Chelsea - who are in contention to win the league! The Royals still have to travel to Tottenham Hotspur but Reading haven’t picked up a single point away from home so far - and the next match (Sunday May 7 at 2pm) is at the SCL against in-form Rachael Daly and Aston Villa. It’s all looking a bit grim for Reading as a club… but see you there!