Reading earned themselves a well deserved draw on Sunday after Lauren Wade grabbed a late, late equaliser in the dying seconds of the match at Princes Park, away to London City Lionesses. The home team must have thought they had bagged all three points after taking the lead with their own sucker punch, just before the half-time whistle, with a goal from Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah.
It’s the third point for the Royals from the three opening matches, placing them currently in eighth place and four points behind the early leaders, Crystal Palace, who enjoyed an extraordinary 9-1 victory over Durham in the early midday kick-off (making Reading’s opening-day draw at Palace look a decent result indeed!).
Liam Gilbert’s team had one unexpected change with Tia Primmer sitting on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Midweek signing 18-year-old Halle Houssein (on a season-long loan from West Ham United) was thrown straight in at the deep end for her debut.
The Reading manager trusted her to play the full 90 minutes and she had a very accomplished match in central midfield, making some good interceptions, finding herself time on the ball and setting up some promising attacks.
Josie Longhurst was the other change, making her first start of the season, replacing the suspended Sanne Troelsgaard. After last week’s red card she got a three-match suspension for allegedly ‘grabbing of hair’, which seemed harsh at the time, with Troelsgaard adamant she grabbed her shoulder (‘but will learn from this’).
The London City Lionesses lined up with a couple of ex-Royals starting: Danielle Carter leading the attack and (loud as ever…) Grace Moloney protecting the home team’s goal.
Team: Orman (GK), Dugdale, Cooper (Meadows-Tuson, 88), Houssein, Wade, Hendrix, Mayi Kith, Estcourt, Woodham (Captain), Roberts, Longhurst (Elwood, 81)
Unused subs: Kite (GK), Wilson, Kennedy, Cox, Rasmussen
In what was a promising opening half, Reading conceded a sloppy and scrappy goal on the stroke of 45 minutes. The Royals failed to clear a right-foot Grace Neville corner, with the consequence being the resultant pinball scramble falling to the tall Lioness striker, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, who turned and rifled the ball past Emily Orman from pretty much on the penalty spot. 1-0 to the home team.
It’s pretty difficult to find out a lot of information about the Barclays Championship teams (so if anyone knows of any sites, please feel free to share with me!), but from my limited knowledge and recent signings for the home side, it feels as though the Lionesses will be expecting to seriously challenge in this league.
So, with a late sucker-punch goal excepted, I thought the Royals’ first-half performance was promising. It was an improvement on the opening two matches, with the overall effort, teamwork and movement equal to the home side.
Reading created some decent half chances too. Longhurst could have done better after slicing her shot wide of Moloney’s goal on 17 minutes from an angle, after finding herself with space in the Lionesses’ penalty area. Wade put in a great shift all afternoon, huffing and puffing down the right wing in searing heat (complete with drinks breaks), but the final ball and pass often eluded her.
Reading didn’t seem to be disheartened with the late first-half goal and started the second on the front foot, with an early well worked short corner (which unfortunately came to nothing), followed by a curling left-foot effort, just over the crossbar, from Wade cutting in from the right.
Another Reading corner, this time from Deanna Cooper, called for a timely punch from ex-Royals keeper Moloney. Reading’s goalkeeper, Orman, had to remain alert and was also forced into action, tipping a long-range effort from Lioness’ right back Neville.
Although not perfect, Reading appeared to join up their attacking play much better today (compared to the opening two matches) where Troelsgaard has often looked isolated (and often clearly frustrated too!). Today, Longhurst and later Charlie Estcourt both stepped into the attacking role and although their efforts could not be faulted, it’s fair to say that, overall, the Royals currently appear to lack a cutting edge. That’s maybe an area to try and improve upon, with the transfer window closing on Thursday September 14.
Gilbert made two changes: Amelia Elwood on for Longhurst and Freya Meadows-Tuson making her first league appearance, in place of Cooper.
With seconds of the six minutes of time added on running out, Wade was rewarded for her continuous efforts, striking the ball across a helpless (and probably now very grumpy!) Moloney and into the bottom right-hand corner.
There was one yellow card for Reading today, with Wade picking up her second card of the season - and two (possibly three on a substitution) to the Lionesses, both for time-wasting late on in the match.
You’d like to think that the players will grow into the new set-up - which is still only in its infancy - with Gilbert and Dan Logue looking to embed their coaching ideas and style. Troelsgaard still has two games to sit out but there are also players still to come back from injury: Charlie Wellings (couple of weeks) and Madison Perry a bit longer (six weeks) with ankle ligament issues. So today’s performance (and other results) is surely positive, something to build upon and something to look forward to this season.
Next up are Southampton (who, like London City Lionesses, have had a decent start to the season), next Sunday at the SCL Stadium for an earlier 12 midday kick-off. See you there!