Reading FC Women battled in a blizzard against a plucky Aston Villa side, managing to only walk away with a point in a 2-2 draw, despite dominating the play and going ahead twice.
A first-half goal from Angharad James and a second-half strike from Rachel Rowe couldn’t put Villa away, who pulled level twice, earning a point at Banks’s Stadium
Like the previous week against Arsenal, Reading were off the mark early. Amalie Eikeland put a low cross into the box for Captain Natasha Harding, but the ball didn’t quite make it to her and eventually trickled out for a corner to the Royals. The corner kick came to Jess Fishlock outside the area who unleased a stinging shot which was beat away by Villa keeper Lisa Weiss, but the ball fell perfectly for Angharad James, who was in the right place at the right time and nodded into the home-side’s net to open the scoring.
Reading continued to press while the momentum was on their side and won another couple of corners in quick succession. One of the, once again, came out to a Reading player on the edge of the box – this time Emma Mitchell – who fired off a stinging shot of her own that had Weiss at full-stretch to punch the ball over.
The Royals continued to knock the ball around comfortably, forcing corner after corner as they looked to capitalise on the momentum and double their lead.
Lauren Bruton took a knock and was replaced by Danielle Carter on the half-hour mark and the former Arsenal striker was instantly in the mix as Reading constantly created opportunities, breaking into the Villa box and trying their luck from outside of it.
The home-side had an opportunity to level the score through Stine Larsen late in the first-half, but Reading went into the break with a slim lead that should have certainly been more.
Half-time: Aston Villa Women 0 – 1 Reading FC Women
Reading began the second-half in the same way they’d started the first. Carter and Eikeland linked up nicely on a couple of occasions as they broke into the Villa box; the first producing an opportunity for James to strike the ball from range, forcing a save from Weiss and the second almost providing a goal for Rachel Rowe at the back post as she slid to meet the ball, mere inches away.
Villa won a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the Reading area and Natalie Haigh sent a clever, low ball into the box which evaded the Reading defence and was met by Mana Iwuabuchi who turned the ball into the back of the net to level the score.
The Royals answered within one minute, when Rachel Rowe made a run into the Villa box, received the ball and took a touch before slotting home confidently to give Reading the lead once again, as it seemed order was restored.
The snow began falling in earnest as the game approached the final 25-minutes, but Reading maintained control in the near-arctic conditions.
The game got scrappier as both team dealt with frustrations and the extreme weather; Villa kept battling until the very end looking to get something out of the game, which is exactly what they did. In the 90th minute they attacked down the left-hand side through Iwabuchi who laid the ball off to substitute Diana Silva who poked home the equaliser to salvage a point for Villa.
Full-time: Aston Villa Women 2 – 2 Reading FC Women
Aston Villa Women: Weiss, Nidow, Asante, Follis (Hayles 75’), Larsen, Siems, Syme (Silva 68’), Haigh, Haywood (Hanssen 68’), Iwabuchi, Ewers
Substitutes not used: Rogers, Ale, West, Hutton, McLoughlin
Goals: Iwabuchi (55’), Silva (90’)
Yellow Cards: Larsen (80’)
Reading FC Women: Moloney, Mitchell, Bartrip, Cooper, Roberts (Harries 68’), Fishlock, James, Eikeland, Rowe, Bruton (Carter 28’), Harding
Substitutes not used: Nayler, Woodham, Childerhouse, Skeels
Goals: James (3’), Rowe (57’)