Women's match report: United 0 Reading 2
Manchester United Women fell to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Reading on Sunday, just our second in the WSL this term.
In a tight and tense affair at Leigh Sports Village, two quickfire second-half goals from Reading strikers Natasha Harding and Danielle Carter settled the game.
The result leaves the Reds second in the table after 14 games, although third-placed Manchester City could make up ground later this afternoon when they face Arsenal.
United started the brightest with Ona Battle linking up with Leah Galton down the left, leading to our first shot on target within the opening minutes.
Soon after, an early effort from Reading’s Rachel Rowe was cleared off the line, leaving United in no doubt that we were set for a battle.
Amalie Eikeland fired her effort narrowly wide moments later, putting United under some early pressure in a bright opening 10 minutes for both teams.
Neither side took real control of the game, as Galton once again caused Reading problems with her pace, forcing a last -ditch tackle from Deanna Cooper on the penalty spot.
The Reds continued to search for the opening, with captain Katie Zelem and Ella Toone linking well through the middle.
And it looked like the hosts had found it when Christen Press and Toone combined to find Kirsty Hanson out wide, with her cross touched onto the far post by the in-form Toone.
United continued to push forward, with Batlle and Press’s fine link play down the left-hand side unable to deliver an end product.
A swap of sides for Hanson and Galton had an immediate impact, with Zelem crossing for the arriving Galton who’s header was easily caught by Grace Maloney in the Reading goal.
On the half-hour mark, Rowe took on Millie Turner to register another Royals shot on target, but it was stopped by Earps.
Despite some good play from Zelem and Hayley Ladd through the centre of midfield, United continued to fall short in the final third as Reading stuck to their game plan of frustrating the Reds.
The final minutes of the half saw Hanson fire over for United, while back down the other end, two corners in quick succession forced Casey Stoney’s side to defend right up to the break.
After the interval, Reading picked up where they left off, forcing United into some early defending, with Carter continuing to look dangerous in front of goal.
It was end-to-end stuff as Galton threatened at one end, before Jess Fishlock’s long-range effort flew over the bar down the other.
Another Hanson cross from the right tested Reading’s defensive resolve, as Galton had arguably United’s best effort of the match saved from close range.
United continued to press, with Zelem firing just over the bar and Batlle forcing another save from Maloney in the Reading goal.
Around the hour-mark Stoney made changes, with Ladd and Hanson giving way for Jackie Groenen and Jess Sigsworth. The latter’s impact was felt immediately, when her driven cross was frantically cleared by Reading’s backline.
Another Galton chance came United’s way, with the winger unable to connect with a Zelem looping cross at the back post.
Back down the other end, Angharad James forced a fine close-range save from Earps, with the resulting corner being met by the head of Reading captain Harding to give the visitors the lead.
Moments later, the ever-dangerous Carter converted from a Royals free-kick to double Reading’s lead.
More United efforts followed as the Reds pressed for a comeback. Zelem had an effort saved at the near post and debutant Maria Thorisdottir shot over.
United were then forced to chase game, with Reading happy to sit back and continue to frustrate the Reds. Further half chances for Galton and Sigsworth followed, but it was not to be United’s afternoon in front of goal.
United: Earps; Thorisdottir, A.Turner, M.Turner, Batlle; Ladd (Groenen 54), Zelem (c) (Fuso 87); Hanson (Sigsworth 57), Toone, Galton; Press.
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Harris, Bourne, Jones, Ross.
Reading: Mitchell, Cooper, Bartrip, Woodham; Eikeland, Fishlock, James, Rowe; Harding, Carter (Harries 67).
Substitutes not used: Naylor, Leine, Roberts, Childerhouse, Dorell, Bruton.
Scorers: Harding 63, Carter 65.