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Reading FC Women won the Berks and Bucks FA Senior Cup on a penalty shootout after a goalless final at Abingdon United on Sunday.
This was the second year in succession that the Final has been decided this way and on both occasions the unfortunate victims have been Chesham United. While they were defeated last year by lower league opposition, the South West Combination league leaders this time gave their Premier League opponents a very difficult match. Reading's Eire Under-17 international goalkeeper Grace Moloney played a crucial role in the Reading victory, saving a penalty in normal time and making a vital save in the shootout to clinch the Cup.
Chesham started the better and had early chances, Kat Bowers robbing a hesitant defender and forcing Moloney to push a shot past the post on six minutes. It was Bowers again whose alert play forced a penalty, challenging Moloney for a through ball, with Kelly Chambers adjudged to have committed a foul in the scramble which followed. However, Moloney dived to her right to beat away Shan Woodward's spot kick on the quarter hour.
Woodward nearly made amends with a dangerous corner which just evaded Sian Williams on the far post three minutes later. Kayleigh Hines had seen an early header from a corner ruled out for a foul but Reading offered little apart from set pieces until close to the break, when Natasha Caswell lobbed the ball just over Katie McGloin's bar. The Chesham keeper then made a superb reaction save from Caswell, turning away a shot from six yards to keep the score level at half time.
Reading, who had played an important league match on Thursday night, continued to threaten mainly at corners, McGloin juggling the ball clear from under the bar on the hour. Chesham's Dawne Campbell produced the best play of the match on 70 minutes, outwitting three defenders before shooting straight at Moloney. Reading's Alison Hogg cleared an effort off the line as the underdogs continued to threaten but it was Caswell who could have won it for the Royals on 86 minutes, beating McGloin to a cross but guiding her header over the bar.
Reading improved as the match went into extra time, moving the ball around well and creating chances. Caswell's frustrating evening continued as she again cleared the bar when through on goal and then hit the post from close range with McGloin again juggling the ball to safety on the rebound. Reading's Hines was sent off on 100 minutes but the Royals continued to have slightly the better of the closing stages without either team going close again.
The penalty shoot out was marked by Reading converting the four attempts they needed, whilst Chesham missed their second and Moloney made a stunning dive to her right to turn a well struck third penalty over the bar. Caswell, Stacey Wiggins, Mel Fletcher and Emma Pearmine all scored to ensure the Royals win and leave the Chesham team empty handed again, poor reward for a fine performance over 120 minutes when it was impossible to tell which team came from a higher league.
Reading FC Women: Grace Moloney, Gemma Sims, Emma Pearmine, Kelly Chambers, Alison Hogg, Linda Hirons, Kayleigh Hines, Natasha Caswell, Mel Fletcher, Christine Chard, Dan Puddefoot. Subs: Alison Shaw, Stacey Wiggins, Stacey Donnelly, Jas Brewster, Meg Alexander.
Chesham Utd: Katie McGloin, Leah Taylor, Cath Andrews, Sian Williams, Shan Woodward, Tash Sandalls, Amy Fisher, Anneka Nuttall, Kat Bowers, Dawne Campbell, Lisa Nixon. Subs: Nadine Bates, Di Killey, Hannah Reallack, Debs Young, Michelle Elrick.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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