Reading FC Women will host Brighton & Hove Albion this Sunday at Madejski Stadium in what will be their final home match of the 2020-21 season.
The Royals will be looking for their first win since their monumental away victory against Manchester United in February, where they became the first side to defeat United at home in over a year.
Reading currently sit in 7th place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, just three points behind Brighton in 6th, meaning that a win for the Royals would take them above Albion with a significantly better goal difference.
Seagulls flying high
Having finished in 9th place in 2018-19 – their inaugural season in the WSL – and in the same place in 2019-20, Hope Powell’s side look set for their highest ever WSL finish being currently in 6th place with just two fixtures remaining. It has been a great improvement for the side, who have won five of their last seven, the same number of victories as they managed across their previous 29 WSL matches. The pick of their 7 league victories this season to date was undoubtedly their 2-1 away success at quadruple chasing Chelsea. Another notable victory was their 1-0 home win over Manchester United early in April.
There has been the odd less-than-positive result such as the 5-0 home defeat at the hands of Everton that came after the Seagulls had notched up 4 consecutive league wins. Albion’s interest in this season’s FA Cup is still alive as they beat Bristol City 1-0 in the fourth-round, and have a home tie with Huddersfield Town to look forward to on May 16th. Hope Powell’s team have netted 16 goals from their 20 league fixtures this season, with leading scorer being Dutch International Inessa Kaagman with 7 league goals including four from the penalty spot.
The Albion squad – an update
The Brighton squad for Sunday’s fixture will likely show very few changes from the team that faced the Royals last December. One new arrival however is Finland international Emma Koivisto who joined in early February on an 18-month contract from Swedish side Gothenburg FC. The 26-year-old defender is an international teammate of Albion midfielder Nora Heroum and has 58 senior caps, with 2 goals, for her country. Also, likely to feature is defender Bethan Roe who has been recalled from her loan spell at Charlton Athletic. Meanwhile, Kirsty Barton has been loaned out to Crystal Palace, and fellow midfielder Denise O’Sullivan has ended her own loan spell at Albion and returned to North Carolina Courage.
A look back at previous meetings
Reading can boast an impressive record against the South coast side. In the five meetings between the clubs since Brighton’s promotion to the WSL in 2018, the Royals have claimed four victories with the other fixture being drawn. In the 2018-19 season, the Royals completed the league double, winning 4-1 at Albion’s Broadfield Stadium and then 1-0 at home. The Royals’ goals came from Brooke Chaplen, Fara Williams, Gemma Davison and an own goal in the away fixture, with Rachel Furness’ goal separating the sides in the return.
Due to the pandemic, just one meeting took place last season. This was at the Broadfield Stadium in late November and ended an entertaining 2-2 draw. Fara Williams gave the Royals an early advantage but before the interval the hosts had turned this round through goals from Aileen Whelan and Ini Umotong. The Royals pressed hard in the second half and were finally rewarded in the 4th minute of added time when Remi Allen netted to make the final score 2-2.
Turning to the current campaign, the sides first met in a Continental Cup group fixture at Crawley back in November. Kelly Chambers’ side returned with a 2-0 victory after an excellent all-round team performance with goals from Natasha Harding and Amalie Eikeland. Just four and a half weeks later, the Royals returned to the same venue this time for a WSL meeting. Again, the side performed well, the highlight being a brace from Jess Fishlock, her only goals in Reading colours. The Welsh international scored twice in the first period with the hosts replying through a penalty from Inessa Kaagman. Rachel Rowe’s stoppage time goal at the end of the second half secured an excellent 3-1 away victory for the Royals.
Following the announcement at the beginning of this week that she will be retiring from football at the end of this season, Fara Williams will be stepping out at the Madejski for the very final time on Sunday.
With a legendary career that began at her childhood club Chelsea, it is incredibly fitting that her final game for the Royals will be next week’s last game of the season against the Blues at Kingsmeadow, but her final home match as a Royal this Sunday will also be a momentous moment, and you can watch all the action LIVE on the FA Player.
Reading FC Women v Brighton & Hove Albion Women | Sunday 2nd May | 2pm | Madejski Stadium