Fletcher's brace ensures victoryBy Richard Evans
Reading 5 (Horwood 49, Williams 80, Bartrip 85, Fletcher 9, 66)
London Bees 1 (Brooks 42)
Reading extended their unbeaten run to seven games with an impressive 5-1 victory over the London Bees at the Madejski Stadium.
Mel Fletcher bagged a brace while Bonnie Horwood, Cheryl Williams and Molly Bartrip also scored for the Royals in front of 442 supporters on Saturday evening.
Reading: Moloney, Horwood, Jane (Wilson 88), Kirby, Bruton, Giddings, McGee (C), Cox, Bragg (Roche 70), Bartrip, Fletcher (Williams 78).
Substitutes: Walkley, Williams, Roche, Ryan, Haines, Wilson, Sansom
Starting XI team news:
Reading’s hopes before the game were bolstered with the return on Molly Bartrip who had been on international duty with England U19s at the European Championships. Elsewhere Grace Moloney was given her first start this season in goal for the Royals.
The first half started well for Reading, going 1-0 up in just the 9th minute of the game. Bruton linked up with Kirby within the box who saw her shot cannon back off the bar and straight to the feet of Mel Fletcher, who was left with a simple tap in. This was Mel’s first league goal for the club.
The front three for Reading; Bruton, Kirby and Fletcher, caused many problems for the Bees defence with their quick and clever interplay. Reading created many half-chances throughout the first 45 but were unable to find the target for the second time. Bragg had the best effort of the first half as she hit a beautiful long shot which rattled the Bees woodwork.
The Royals looked comfortable but didn’t make the prolonged pressure count which they paid for when London Bees equalised late in the first half. Billie Brooks converted a long-range free-kick in sublime fashion, smashing the ball into the top corner of the net – nothing Grace Moloney could do about it.
After the break Reading came out with a fire in their bellies. After a couple of quick interplays, Bonnie Horwood gave Reading the lead with her first ever goal for Reading after she latched on to a bouncing ball within the penalty box and hit a sweet strike with her left foot straight into the bottom right of the net.
Once Reading had regained the lead there was a sense of déjà vu from the last time Reading played the Bees – Reading displayed a clinical touch that the Bees never showed. Kirby came close to extending Reading’s lead with a fantastic dipping shot that shaved the top of the crossbar.
Reading went 3-1 up when Fletcher’s clever flick found Kirby down the left-wing. Kirby drove brilliantly down the wing and then unselfishly cut the ball back inside to Fletcher to finish off a great move for the Royals.
Cheryl Williams came off the bench on the 79th minute and made an instant impact within a minute of coming on the field with a wonderful 30 yard strike which flew straight past the London Bees keeper.
The fantastic second half display was rounded off with a goal from Molly Bartrip, on her first appearance back from England U19 duty in Norway. She picked the ball up just on the edge of the 18 yard box and thumped the ball past the despairing Bees keeper to score her first ever goal for Reading. Reading 5-1 London Bees.
The excellent second half attacking display was a huge positive for the Royals. Moreover, the efforts of the defence cannot be overlooked in this impressive victory. The back-four of McGee, Jane, Cox and Bartrip overpowered the Bees strikeforce and dealt with every attack.
Molly Bartrip on her goal: “I’m never normally that far up the pitch, so it was a bit of a shock to be that far up. But I think when the ball came across I thought ‘it’s the end of the game, I might as well have a shot’ and luckily it went in and didn’t come off any other part of my body – straight into the bottom corner.”
Molly Bartrip on returning to Reading: “Obviously I have just been away for England – it’s been a long three weeks with England, obviously we didn’t do as well as we could have done. But now I’m back at Reading and happy to be back in winning ways.”
Mel Fletcher on her performance: “I’m just happy to get the start today, I’ve been in and out of the team for a while and just to get the start, the opportunity and the two goals absolutely perfect.”
Mel Fletcher on Reading’s performance: “Everyone would admit the first half was a bit slow on our part. We changed our strategy in the second half, we pressed a lot higher which meant we forced them off the ball a bit more and it worked to our advantage with a few goals in the second half.”