Hayley Ladd scores for Manchester United Women.

Reading Women 1 United Women 2

Manchester United Women continued our unbeaten start to the 2020/21 Women’s Super League campaign with a 2-1 win against Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Hayley Ladd’s late header was the difference for Casey Stoney’s side, restoring the Reds’ lead on 83 minutes after a Millie Turner own-goal had cancelled out Leah Galton’s opener earlier in the half.

The victory keeps United top of the WSL table ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures later on Sunday and maintains a perfect league record on the road this season.

Casey Stoney made just the one enforced change to the side from last weekend’s win at Aston Villa, with Kirsty Hanson coming in to lead the line for the Reds in place of Lauren James.

In the opening stages, the chances came in flurries at both ends as United had to show our strength in both defence and attack at the Madejski Stadium.

The former was tested first, as the Royals created several chances in front of a small number of fans allowed into their Berkshire home.

Jess Fishlock’s two early sighters at goal were the best chances of the opening period, particularly the second, which came on the half-volley and arrowed narrowly over the goal.

Reading forward Natasha Harding also went close early on with a run to the near post, but her connection with a ball in from the right was off target.

Leah Galton scores for Manchester United.
Galton fired the Reds ahead in the first period.

Having absorbed that early pressure, the Reds sprung forward with a pair of opportunities on the Royals goal.

A piece of neat skill from Ella Toone worked some space to have a strike from the left side of the box that was angled goal-bound by the midfielder, but straight at keeper Grace Moloney.

Moments later, Tobin Heath continued her influential start to proceedings. Having been a threat from set-pieces, the American crafted a chance for Hanson, by cutting the ball back to the forward who drifted a shot just wide of the goal.

After going close on that occasion, United’s dangerous start going forward was rewarded on 32 minutes. Galton drove the Reds forward down the left and went all the way into the box before powering a shot past Moloney to break the deadlock.

Buoyed by Galton’s second goal in successive weeks, the Reds nearly had a second, minutes after finding the net, but Toone’s effort from inside the box only found the side-netting after she was found unmarked by Hanson on the right.

Having gone into the break ahead, United’s hold on the one-goal lead was tested inside the first 60 seconds of the second half. Mary Earps, who had a quiet first period in the United goal, was called into action with a double save to deny Emma Harries’ header, as well as Harding’s flick on the rebound.

Just over 10 minutes into the half, the hosts’ good start after the interval saw them draw level in the game. Fishlock’s effort from just outside the box took a wicked deflection off Turner and wrong-footed Earps on its way into the net, drawing Reading level.

Having played her role in getting the hosts back on terms, Fishlock was again the spearhead in the Royals’ efforts to complete a turnaround. Amy Turner stood strong to deny the Reading midfielder however, producing a superbly timed last-ditch tackle before a well-placed block which diverted a secondary effort.

As the game ticked over into the final 15 minutes, both sides pushed for the all-important third goal in the contest.

After Deanna Cooper had fired into the side-netting from a tight angle, the Reds put together a swift move that nearly restored the lead.

Galton turned into the playmaker on this occasion after another driving run down the left, crossing towards substitute Jane Ross, who had her effort in a goalmouth scramble cleared off the line.

Casey Stoney watches on from the sidelines.
Casey Stoney watches on from the sidelines.

Having gone agonisingly close that time, United grabbed the decisive goal with just under 10 minutes left the play at the Madejski.

Heath’s corner from the left was flicked on at the near post into the path of Ladd who was unmarked inside the six-yard box, to nod the Reds back in front with her first of the campaign.

The Reds then looked to seal the encounter as Ross attempted to catch the Reading keeper off her line, but Moloney adjusted well to gather the looped ball before it went in.

Health also went close to a United third as the game entered stoppage time. The WSL Player of the Month for November curled wide of the goal from range with what was the last bit of action before referee Helen Conley’s final whistle.

Next up for United is the final group-stage game in this season’s Continental League Cup against Everton on Wednesday, before the Reds return to WSL action at the weekend by welcoming Bristol City to Leigh Sports Village in the final encounter of the calendar year.

Jackie Groenen on the ball
The win means we stay top of the WSL.

MATCH DETAILS

Reading: Moloney; Leine, Cooper, Bartrip, Woodham; Williams (Bruton, 85’), Fishlock, James; Harding (c), Eikeland (Rowe 80), Harries.

Unused substitutes: Nayler, Roberts, Childerhouse, Carter.

Booked: Leine, Bartrip.

Goal: M.Turner (og) 56.

United: Earps; Batlle, A.Turner (c), M.Turner, Smith; Ladd, Groenen; Heath, Toone (Staniforth 61) (, Zelem 81), Galton; Hanson (Ross 72).

Unused substitutes: Bentley, McManus, Okvist, Fuso.

Goals: Galton 32, Ladd 83.

Booked: A.Turner, Heath.

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