Reading FC Women 2-1 Yeovil LadiesStacey Wiggins' late winner gave Reading a crucial three points over a resilient Yeovil side to maintain the pressure on league leaders Millwall.
The in-form Cheryl Williams set up both goals as Stacie Donnelly got the Royals back on level terms before Wiggins headed in late to snatch a fourth win in five league games.
The match started off as a very open affair, with chances coming in quick succession for both sides. The first chance for Reading fell to the feet of Williams; the dynamic midfielder unleashed a ferocious strike, only for it to be blocked by a recovering Yeovil defender.
Yeovil fashioned a chance moments later. A deep cross left Stacy Pearson with a clear sight of goal. But after brilliantly peeling away from the defender, the striker couldn’t direct her header beyond Reading’s Grace Maloney.
Maloney was a doubt for the game and for the next fifteen minutes could have been a period of rest bite. Reading were very much in the ascendency at this time, monopolising possession and creating chances at will. Midfielder Lois Roche was especially influential, orchestrating attacks on multiple occasions. And it was Roche’s ball that nearly opened Yeovil up.
Reading forward Rebbeca Jane almost latched on to a lofted ball but Yeovil keeper was on hand to divert the danger. This became a common theme of the first half, with Yeovil playing such a high defensive line.
Reading’s best chance of the first half fell to the feet of Donnelly. Charlotte Chard’s through ball unleashed Alice Palmer on the left wing. The winger cut inside before driving a low cross into the path of the onrushing Donnelly, but the forward could only glance her first-time shot wide of the far post.
The home side were in the ascendency and looked to make their dominance pay. But Reading’s impressive pressure backfired almost immediately. Under pressure, a Yeovil defender cleared the ball up field where a chasing Grace Rapp shrugged off the challenge of Reading defender Rosanna Lane and coolly slotted the ball beyond the stranded Maloney.
After the goal, which came totally against the run of play, Reading looked to instantly draw back level. Despite some impressive build up play, squandered chances became the theme of the first half. First Williams blazed over from just outside the box, then Roche saw her ambitious shot from distance sail wide of the target.
The second half got underway and Reading immediately found the finishing touch they were lacking in the first half. Williams picked up the ball on the left before playing a clever one-two with Donnelly. The midfielder drove down the wing before whipping in a cross that ricocheted to the unmarked Donnelly, the forward made no mistake and smashed home the equaliser from six yards out.
This provided a wake-up call to Yeovil who instantly sprung into action. A miscommunication between Maloney and her defence almost gifted the away side a goal, but for the recovering Maloney to block the shot on its route to goal.
At this point it seemed like there would only be one winner. Reading were struggling to put together a period of sustained possession and Yeovil were looking increasingly confident.
The away side's dominance should have been rewarded in the 68th minute. Yeovil striker Laura Bray teed up Katie Cook, who in acres of space fired wide of the near post with only the 'keeper to beat.
Reading looked to substitute Fran Kirby to reignite their dominance in this match. The clubs' top scorer, who hasn’t featured since January due to injury, showed signs of quality right from the off.
Kirby picked up the ball on the half way line before showing some great close control to glide past the first defender. A superb piece of covering from Yeovil defender Rosie Williams halted the forwards run just when it seemed like she only had the keeper to beat.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, Reading snatched the winner. Williams whipped in a pinpoint corner, and the onrushing Wiggins was on hand to meet it. The Reading defender rose the highest and powerfully headed home to gift the home side all three points.
The home side showed great fight and resilience to grind out a win that keeps the pressure on league leaders Millwall. Reading will travel to Millwall next weekend for what could prove to be a defining moment in the race of the FA Women’s Premier League.
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