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With the new Premier League season just a fortnight away, teams are looking for testing friendlies which will build up match sharpness and fine tune team play.
National Division newcomers Reading took on Southern Division promotion rivals of last season. Portsmouth at Tadley on Sunday and slipped to a 1-0 defeat after a tight contest which will have helped both sides.
Pompey, whose own promotion challenge was ended by chronic fixture congestion at the end of last season, look in good shape to challenge again with a blend of youth and experience. Reading created plenty of chances in a very promising first half but rather ran out of ideas as the match ran on.
Pompey took the lead very early with a fine third minute 20-yard right foot strike from Molly Clark but
were forced to defend desperately for the bulk of the first half as Reading moved forward fluently. They were indebted to three fine saves by keeper Roxy Roberts which preserved their advantage. Roberts got down well to parry two powerful close range efforts then, best of all, leapt to her left to tip a powerful 20-yard Dan Puddefoot drive on to the bar and over after a defensive error had left the Reading striker clear.
As the break approached, Portsmouth threatened more, Gemma Hillier turning well to fire inches wide and Cassie Thorp going close when she latched on to Michelle Beazley's goal kick moments later.
Both teams employed a number of substitutions, some of them rolling replacements, to give run outs to squad members in the second half, Shelly Cox appeared for the visitors on the left after the break.
Reading continued to have the majority of possession but were thwarted by a fine display by the Pompey back four who restricted the home team to a few half chances. The nearest the hosts came to equalising was a deflected last minute free kick which Roberts dived to hold on to. Meanwhile, Pompey had sometimes looked dangerous on the break, using the width of the pitch very effectively. Their best effort came when Kirsty McGee went close from long range late on.
Although results mean little in pre-season, Pompey will surely be pleased with a fine battling team
performance in which every player worked very hard to increasngly deny Reading space and time to display their skills. Reading showed their potential in a fluent half hour before the break but will need to be sharper in two weeks time.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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