Reading FC Women thought they had saved a late point from their away trip to Birmingham City on Sunday, only for a Meaghan Sargeant header to nick all the spoils for the hosts in their FA WSL clash in the Midlands.
A game that had been goalless until final quarter suddenly turned dramatic – Kerys Harrop put the Blues ahead, before Remi Allen levelled late for Reading against her former side. But Sargeant popped up a minute later with a winner for the hosts, condemning the Royals to defeat on their first fixture of 2019.
Reading manager Kelly Chambers welcomed both Lauren Bruton and Jade Moore back from injury with a place in the starting line-up, while new signing Jade Bailey started on the bench.
The first period was energetic and largely dominated by Reading, although clear-cut chances were not created. The best efforts from Reading were a narrowly-wide free-kick by Fara Williams, a dipping effort by Bruton which cleared the bar and a volley by Allen which was saved comfortably.
The Blues came out quickly after the break and could have led within two minutes of the restart, but for a smart stop by goalkeeper Grace Moloney and a block on the line by Jo Potter.
Former Royal Emma Follis was a constant danger down the Birmingham right, and it was through her wing-play that the hosts earned their lead. A cross was hung up for Harrop to meet with a powerful header, which flew into the top corner.
Reading thought they were level when sub Gemma Davison linked up with Allen, but the latter was deemed offside as she poked in. However Allen did level with two minutes remaining when Rachel Furness’s header was stabbed in.
There was to be a late twist, when moments later Sargeant’s looping header beat Moloney and stole the points for the Blues at the last, meaning that the Royals returned home empty-handed for their efforts.
Royals manager Kelly Chambers said: “In the first 45 minutes we were on top but we needed to make sure we capitalised on that, and we didn't. From 60 minutes, onwards the game turned into a scrap and it's something that, if Birmingham need to, they can do that very well.
“We know they like to play, they like to play a lot of short passes so we needed to make sure we were right on the press. We did that perfectly today. The frustrating thing is that we got that all right but we haven't come out with a result.”
Full-time: Birmingham City Ladies 2-1 Reading FC Women
Birmingham City Ladies: Hampton, Williams (Sargeant 65), Harrop (c), Mannion, Scott, Ladd, Arthur, Wellings, Follis (Mayling 78), Quinn, Staniforth.
Unused subs: Ewers, Hayles, Scofield.
Goals: Harrop (72), Sargeant (89).
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Pacheco, Pearce (c) (Bailey 85), Potter, Harding, Furness, Allen, Moore (Bartrip 66), Williams, Bruton (Davison 75), Chaplen.
Unused subs: Kite, Jane, Woodham, Estcourt.
Goal: Allen (87).
Yellow: Moore, Furness, Harding, Allen.
Referee: Mr R Massey-Ellis