Match Report | Royals Beaten in Breath taking finish
Reading suffer narrow 2-1 defeat at Birmingham.
Meaghan Sargeant scored a late header for Birmingham as they edged past Reading in what was a tightly fought contest.
Manager Kelly Chambers welcomed both Lauren Bruton and Jade Moore back from injury with a place in the starting line-up, while new signing Jade Bailey started on the bench. Both sides were hoping to begin 2019 with a win, which led to a tense opening 15minutes; exciting and energetic but with little goalmouth action.
The Royals were constantly pressing the hosts which ensured a first half more or less dominated by Reading. Nevertheless, despite the attacking incentives and positive territory, there were no real clear-cut chances for the Royals during the opening 45 minutes. Fara Williams struck a free-kick wide, Bruton's shot dipped just over the bar, while Remi Allen's volley led to a comfortable save for Blues goalkeeper Hannah Hampton.
Birmingham came out the traps in the second half and would have led within the opening two minutes of the restart but for Grace Moloney and Jo Potter blocking efforts on goal after Emma Follis' cross caused havoc.
The pressure on the Reading goal continued as Charlie Wellings tried her luck from 25 yards, only to be stopped by the fingertips of Moloney; a sublime save to her left. Minutes later, Lucy Quinn's header missed the target at the far post for Birmingham.
Former Royal, Follis, was a constant threat down the right and the deadlock was broken on 72 minutes when her cross was met by a powerful Kerys Harrop header which flew into the top corner.
The introduction of substitute Gemma Davison added a different dimension to Reading's attacking play and she was involved in some neat interchange which allowed Remi Allen to poke home past Hampton, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.
The Royals did level on the 87th minute through Allen as she finished from close range, having latched onto Rachel Furness' header across the face of goal.
However, the hosts stole all three points in the final minutes of normal time as substitute Sargeant's header looped over Moloney and into the far corner.
Manager Kelly Chambers said:
"I thought in the first 45 minutes we were on top but we needed to make sure we capitalised on that, and we didn't. From 60 minutes, onwards the game turned into a scrap and it's something that, if Birmingham need to, they can do that very well."
"We know they like to play, they like to play a lot of short passes so we needed to make sure we were right on the press. We did that perfectly today. The frustrating thing is that we got that all right but we haven't come out with a result."
Midfielder Remi Allen said:
"I thought we played well. We managed the game in the first half especially and weathered the storm second half and obviously managed to get ourselves back in the game but we didn't see it out and it's hugely disappointing for us."
"I thought it was a good game; it was feisty, there were chances either way. Obviously, we need to take our chances. If we do that in the first half then potentially we put the game to bed. But it was a great game for women's football."
Birmingham: Hampton, Williams (Sargeant 65), Harrop (C), Mannion, Scott, Ladd, Arthur, Wellings, Follis (Mayling 78), Quinn, Staniforth
Subs not used: Ewers, Hayles, Scofield
Scorers: Harrop (72) Sargeant (89)
Yellow cards: Harrop
Reading: Moloney; Pacheco, Pearce (C) (Bailey 85), Potter, Harding, Furness, Allen, Moore (Bartrip 66), Williams, Bruton (Davison 75), Chaplen
Subs not used: Kite, Jane, Woodham, Estcourt
Scorers: Allen (87)
Yellow cards: Moore, Furness, Harding, Allen
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis