Reading FC Women suffered their first loss of the Women's Super League season at the weekend, being on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline at home to Birmingham.
A sole strike from Meaghan Sargeant early on was the difference between the teams on a frustrating afternoon for the Royals at Adams Park.
Grace Moloney had to be alert in the opening two minutes to palm away Hayley Ladd's effort. However, she couldn't prevent Sargeant putting the vistors ahead five minutes later. A deep, high cross from the left found Sargeant in space at the back post and her first-time effort was struck into the ground before looping over Moloney into the far corner.
Later in the half, Natasha Harding tried her luck from distance but was off target. At the other end, Lucy Staniforth curled an effort from the edge of the penalty area which was tipped round the far post by Moloney.
In first half stoppage time a ball over Reading's back four was latched onto by Charlie Wellings. Her effort was well held by Moloney, diving to her right.
Into the second half, and Birmingham were continuing to utilise the width to create chances. Wellings forced Moloney into a more routine save with a rather tame effort from the left side of the penalty box.
Emma Follis managed to get in behind following a through ball but Moloney came to the rescue again, racing out of goal to narrow down the angle and deny the Birmingham player.
The goalkeepers on both sides were both called into action just before the hour mark. Ann Katrine-Berger got down well and saved Brooke Chaplen's shot with her feet from close range. Meanwhile, Moloney was continuing her superb work between the sticks and was able to stop another Birmingham counter-attack. Follis was played through but the Royals shot-stopper saved once more.
It was one-way traffic after that as the Royals put the visitors under large amounts of pressure. Katrine-Berger was forced into a great double-save; preventing Lauren Bruton, then Chaplen, an equalising goal. Remi Allen's header went over the bar from close range soon after.
With just under 20 minutes left to play, Chaplen had two great chances in as many minutes. Firstly, curling an effort just wide. She was then put through on goal, under pressure from Birmingham defenders. But Katrine-Berger just managed to get a touch to force the ball out for a corner.
It seemed a special strike would be needed to beat Katrine-Berger. Fara Wiliams almost pulled it out of the bag with a speculative volley on the turn from almost 30 yards out but watched her effort fly just wide.
Reflecting on the result, manager Kelly Chambers said: "It's really frustrating but if you give Birmingham the lead, they're a team that don't let up and are a very hard team to score against."
"We had chances today to come away with something. We scored plenty of goals last year and I think once we find one, we'll find our feet and we'll flourish from that. Looking at the last three games, again, we're not taking our chances."
"When you look at all the players who are out; Jade Moore, Rachel Rowe, Molly Bartrip and Millie Farrow; they're fantastic players to bring back into your squad and I want competition in this team. For those four to come back, and they are coming back in the next week or so, it's going to be of massive importance to us."
Goalkeeper Grace Moloney added: "We started off not at our best. It took us the first half to get going. I thought we were better in the second half. But, like (the games at) West Ham and Everton, we didn't take our chances and that cost us today."
"We knew what to expect. We need to put things right this week and go again on Sunday against Liverpool."
Reading: Moloney, Williams, Pearce (c), Furness, Allen, Davison, Bruton, Harding, Chaplen, Potter, Howard (Pacheco 58).
Subs not used: Jane, Estcourt, Laws, Woodham.
Birmingham: Katrine-Berger; Williams, Sargeant, Ladd, Harrop, Arthur (Mayling 79), Ewers, Follis (Scott 86), Wellings, Mannion, Staniforth.
Subs not used: Schofield, Hayles
Scorer: Sargeant 7