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Charlton Athletic 1 Reading FC Women 1
Charlton Athletic and Reading shared the honours after an absorbing contest at Thamesmead with a 1-1 draw, both goals coming in a two minute period just after the hour.
Charlton had more chances over the course of the 90 minutes, including a penalty, which was saved by Grace Moloney. With the Premier League's leading scorer on one team and last season's Premier League Golden Boot award winner on the other, it was no surprise that there were plenty of attempts on goal, but only two were successful.
A very entertaining first half hour saw Gemma Bryan go close twice early on, the second shot forcing a good reaction tip over the bar from Moloney. Nikki Watts was the first to threaten for Reading around 15 minutes with two snap shots from distance, the second forcing Megen Lynch to a diving save. Charlton's Fliss Gibbons was a constant threat to the Reading defence on the left, nearly setting up Bryan after some tricky wing play, then combining with impressive youngster
Courteney Gibson, who had beaten three players in a run across field. As usual, Watts delivered dangerous set pieces for the Royals, Becky Jane having a header held by Lynch, who also fielded a long range Alice Palmer shot.
The stream of chances eventually dried up as both teams came to terms with the attacking threats of their opponents at the end of a breathless half. However, the match burst into life almost immediately
on the restart. Watts had a great chance to open the scoring for Reading, sliding the ball wide from close in on the left of goal.
Within two minutes, Bryan was brought down by Gemma Sims but her penalty was well saved by Moloney, diving to her left to keep the match goalless.
It looked as if Reading might make Charlton pay dearly for that miss. Emma Delves threaded a perfectly weighted pass to meet Watts' run into the area and the Royals hot shot evaded Lynch to slide in her thirteenth league goal of the campaign.
Charlton hit back almost immediately with Gibbons again digging out a dangerous cross from the left which Ellie Bailes bravely bundled in under pressure at the far post for her first ever goal at this level. Reading had held the lead for two minutes.
Charlton raised their game to try and complete the double over the Royals, who they had beaten comfortably away from home. Gibson had a shot held by Moloney, then Gibbons got past three challenges but fired wide. Substitute Emma Beckett went very close to a winner as the hosts piled on the pressure in the closing moments. Bryan then hit the side netting with a spectacular effort as Reading were forced to hang on for a point.
Reading, with a small squad, have recovered well from a run of five defeats. Charlton have struggled to win at home this season, whilst being formidable on their travels. In Charlton's case they are returning to the top division after completely rebuilding the club over several years, Both teams look capable of enjoying a successful second half of the season in league and cup competitions.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Sinead Boyer, Toni Alden, Kim Dixson, Harley Bennett, Cori Daniels, Ellie Bailes, Fliss Gibbons, Courteney Gibson, Charley Clifford, Gemma Bryan. Subs: Sarah Smith, Becky Duggan, Emma Beckett, Ellie Stenning, Jenny Newman.
Reading FC Women: Grace Moloney, Stacey Wiggins, Megan Alexander, Gemma Sims, Kelly
Chambers, Emma Delves, Charlotte Young, Stacie Donnelly, Becky Jane, Alice Palmer, Charlotte Young, Nikki Watts. Sub: Melissa Fletcher.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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