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Lewes 2-2 Reading Women: Match Report

Late goals from Bethan Roberts and Charlie Wellings secured an important point for the Royals on the road.

Lewes v Blackburn Rovers - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Reading left it very late to stun a lively Lewes team and snatch a 2-2 draw, after battling back from a hugely disappointing first half which left the Royals with a mountain to climb and a two-goal deficit at the break.

An 81st-minute goal from Bethan Roberts gave Reading a lifeline. Then a late, late goal from Charlie Wellings, four minutes into time added on, secured what turned out to be a very important point in a dramatic and entertaining end to a match full of chances for both teams.

After a long break (last league match December 17) and two cup defeats, it was back to the Championship day job for Reading. It was the proverbial ‘six pointer’ relegation battle, away at Lewes this afternoon at the brilliantly named The Dripping Pan (complete with beach huts you can hire to watch the match from!).

If times weren’t already hard enough at Reading Football Club, it feels like there’s always a new challenge just around the corner to overcome each week.

Last week it was the cancellation of the Birmingham City league match - due to food poisoning after the Wolverhampton Wanderers match (from an external catering team recommended and brought in, with the match being played at the EBB Stadium, Aldershot).

This week, manager Liam Gilbert was missing from the sidelines, also because of illness, with Dan Logue taking up the leadership position.

And just to ramp up the pressure, as the two teams entered the field of play, they would both have been aware of the news that fellow relegation strugglers Watford had managed to pick up three points away to Durham in the early kick-off.

There were three changes from the team that started against Arsenal in the Conti Cup in midweek. Madison Perry started alongside new loan signings Jesse Woolley (Bristol City) and Jessie Stapleton (West Ham United), who were announced this week.

Eve Annets kept her place in goal, with Emily Orman included in a strong (nine person) substitutes bench.

Reading 4-2-3-1: Annets, (GK), Mayi Kith (Dugdale, 57), Hendrix, Stapleton, Woodham, (Captain) (Roberts, 57), Woolley, Estcourt, Primmer, Perry (Elwood, 87), Wade, Wellings

Unused subs: Orman (GK), Houssein, Smith, Wilson, Hunt, Longhurst

Yellow cards: Hendrix (26), Primmer (71), Stapleton (90+2)

Red cards: Primmer (second yellow, 90+7)

Attendance: 851

With all the bad news, it felt like Reading deserved a break. However, after watching that first-half performance it’s also fair to say that, in order to get that break, you have to deserve it - and Reading certainly showed no signs of that in the opening 45 minutes.

It took the home team just two minutes to show their intention, effort and passion to get something out of the match, with a throw-in allowing Jacqui Hand the chance of an early shot at the near post, which thankfully lacked power and was easily collected by Annets - who was to be much the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Reading were careless in possession and the early pressure from Lewes paid off when, in the 13th minute, Maria Farrugia latched on to a long pass from Hand and was too strong for Brooke Hendrix, turning and firing the ball past the left hand of Annets into the Reading net for a 1-0 lead.

Stunned, Reading quickly went on the attack with Lauren Wade rushing her shot, blasting high and wide.

Reading survived another scare when Aimee Claypole fired over from the near post after connecting with a cross from Hand from the right. Just a minute later, Annets was once again called into action with goalscorer Farrugia forcing another save at the near post.

On the half-hour mark it looked disastrous for Reading when Annets failed to hold a shot from Grace Riglar, the defender seeing her effort slip through the hands of the Reading goalkeeper like a bar of soap. 2-0.

To state the obvious, Reading needed a good second half but it was Lewes - once again - that came out of the starting blocks quickly, dominating the opening quarter of an hour. Reading hung on after Lewes squandered several chances to put the match beyond reach, coming closest when the troublesome Farrugia rattled the crossbar just five minutes into the restart.

Reading’s first real chance came in the 54th minute, after some good work down the left by Lily Woodham found Woolley in the box, her outstretched leg knocking the ball wide of the upright.

On 57 minutes, stand-in manager Logue made two changes, bringing on Roberts (for Woodham, who appeared to be carrying an injury from kick-off?) and Rachel Dugdale (for Mayi Kith).

The changes did make a difference as the game went on and, within minutes, Perry had a chance, cutting in from the left, but her shot was straight at Sophie Whitehouse in the Lewes goal.

With a high-tempo, end-to-end match, both managers were visibly frustrated and were both cautioned, within minutes of each other, as their frustrations boiled over into dissent.

With Reading desperate to capitalise on growing pressure, Whitehouse pulled off the save of the match, with quick reactions denying a super strike from Woolley at the back post and Tia Primmer putting the rebound wide - and picking up what turned out to be a costly yellow card for dissent in the process.

It was an exciting, if not bonkers, end to the match. Substitute Roberts came close to the equaliser, her shot hitting the crossbar.

At the other end, Riglar’s shot was fired into the ground and easily gathered by Annets before Reading finally grabbed the lifeline goal from Roberts. Her shot, from the edge of the penalty area, found the bottom corner of the Lewes goal. 1-2.

With three minutes of normal timing remaining, Logue made Reading’s last change, bringing on Amelia Elwood in place of Perry.

The final minutes were more like a basketball match. Annets was forced into another save after Riglar got on the end of a Lewes free-kick then Wade had two chances: a left-foot shot and back-post header (from a corner), with both wide of the target.

In the fourth minute of seven added on, Wellings - from inside a chaotic penalty area - somehow managed to turn the ball into the goal for the equaliser (and her first league goal of the season). 2-2.

With seconds remaining there was still time for Primmer to pick up her second yellow card after a cynical foul, to see her leave the pitch, and one final scare - much to the relief of the Reading goalkeeper - with Annets spilling a late free-kick and the resultant Lewes shot cleared off the goal line by Dugdale.

It turned out to be a huge bonus (and for long periods of time, unexpected) point for the Royals because, as the results came in, Reading found themselves going up the table, fourth from bottom and replaced by London Lionesses who lost 1-0 away to Birmingham City.

After that match, we can all have a week off, back in action next Sunday, for a midday kick-off at the SCL Stadium against high-flying Sunderland. See you there!