United Women 2 Reading Women 0
Manchester United Women racked up a fourth consecutive win in all competitions, as the Reds beat Reading Women 2-0 in a closely fought contest at Leigh Sports Village.
Kirsty Hanson's left-footed volley from a poorly cleared Leah Galton cross put United into the lead, in a first half which saw several stoppages for head injuries. Jess Sigsworth ensured the points were safe for the Reds, five minutes from time, confidently finishing after being played through by Jackie Groenen.
It is four wins in a row now for United Women in all competitions, as well as four consecutive clean sheets, and the result sees Casey Stoney's side move to within four points of the FA Women's Super League summit.
Following on from United’s impressive 2-0 Continental Cup victory over Manchester City last weekend, Stoney made one change to her starting XI, with Lauren James coming in for Sigsworth, after serving a one-match ban against the Blues.
Prior to the match, Stoney stressed the need to maintain momentum off the back of three back-to-back wins, and the Reds didn’t disappoint, with an attacking intent on display from the off.
Galton had created the most chances in the WSL before this fixture, and the winger came close to netting her first top-flight goal in the opening minute, as her rifled shot from an acute angle was parried away by Reading keeper Grace Moloney. Meanwhile the travelling Royals were also trying to get on the front foot, winning two corners, but United were able to deal with the visitors' set-pieces.
There were two stoppages for head injuries in what was a competitive first 10 minutes. Millie Turner and Reading’s Kristine Leine both required treatment after clashing from a corner, and, minutes later, Lisa-Marie Utland had to be taken off with a black eye and nose bleed after going for an aerial duel in the middle of the park.
And while the Norwegian forward received treatment on the touchline, United made our player advantage count. Galton delivered a terrific ball from the left and Sophie Howard was only able to partly clear the danger before the unmarked Hanson arrived at the far post to volley the Reds into the lead.
The physios were deployed yet again after the opener, following a collision between the scorer, Hanson, and keeper Moloney, and, fortunately, both were able to continue. Katie Zelem had an opportunity to double United’s lead from range, however the skipper’s shot was floated over the bar. Meanwhile, the Royals were nearly in for an equaliser, when Amy Turner’s mistimed back pass was almost pounced upon by Utland.
Inside seven minutes of added time at the end of the first half, a well-worked counter attack almost resulted in United making it 2-0. Again, Galton looked lively down the left and the winger pulled the ball back to Zelem, but her shot flew over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
After the break, Reading fired another warning shot to United, as Fara Williams's quickly taken shot from outside the box fizzed just wide of the target.
As the second half progressed, chances were few and far between for both sides. Reading continued to demonstrate their ability from set-pieces, however Williams couldn't direct any of them into dangerous areas.
United, though, continued to have the better opportunities of the match. Sigsworth, who came on as a substitute for Hanson after an hour, was played in on the right, but the forward's shot was wayward. With five minutes to play, Jess ensured the points were safe. Groenen delivered a sumptuous through ball and the striker was one-on-one with the keeper, before hitting home emphatically.
United: Earps; A. Turner, McManus, M. Turner, Harris; Ladd, Zelem (C), Groenen (Toone 90+3); Hanson (Sigsworth 61), James (Ross 87), Galton.
Subs not used: Mikalsen, Okvist, Green, Arnot.
Scorers: Hanson 16, Sigsworth 85.