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Women's Football News
Reading FC Women 0 Sunderland 1
Sunderland gained an important three points in their pursuit of league leaders Leeds United with an away victory over Reading courtesy of a Beth Mead goal, her fourteenth of a brilliant first season in senior football.
The Champions were pushed all the way by a spirited Royals performance but gave a sound defensive display to maintain their advantage.
Reading's leading scorer Nikki Watts had their first effort on target, a free kick which Rachel Laws parried then held. Rachel Furness drove through the Reading defence, forcing a good diving save from Grace Moloney, at the expense of a corner. Laws then had to race from her line to deny Watts on 11 minutes. Reading were able to fashion a couple of decent situations with Kerrie Ryan and Watts hitting dangerous shots across Laws' goal and Melissa Fletcher having a shot deflected for a corner after a good run.
Mead and Keira Ramshaw worked very hard to fashion a couple of chances for the Black Cats. Firstly, Mead blocked a clearance wide on the right on 29 minutes, which fell for Ramshaw to lob past the advancing Moloney, but wide of the post. Then Ramshaw set up Mead for the decisive goal. A fluent move through midfield involving Natalie Gutteridge saw Ramshaw slide a ball through to Mead, who took a touch before striking a powerful shot beyond Moloney from a tight angle on 39 minutes.
Sunderland nearly doubled their lead when a Ramshaw headed flick fell for Sophie Williams, but Moloney beat away her goal bound shot from close range.
Reading pressed forward for long periods of the second half but were held at bay by a solid defensive display from Sunderland. Fletcher and Alice Palmer on the wings were able to find some excellent positions but their crosses and Watts' set pieces were nearly always met by a Sunderland head or boot in a fine defensive display which meant that Laws had relatively few difficult saves to make. The nearest Reading came to equalising was when the keeper was almost left stranded on the edge of her area but Laws and her fellow defenders managed to foil Watts' attempt to force the ball home.
Mead missed a good chance to double the lead when clean through after a defensive error, but she steered a shot wide on 63 minutes. Moloney made another smart save to beat Mead to a Kelly McDougall through ball.
Lois Roche nearly fashioned an equaliser with a flighted free kick which Gemma Sims met beyond the far post, but the ball flew wide. Sunderland were forced into deep defence as Reading sought the
equaliser in the final minutes. Keeper Moloney came up for a final corner which bobbled dangerously in the area before the Black Cats could celebrate a victory on their long journey home.
While Mead took the headlines as she joined Watts as leading scorer in the Premier League, this was a true team victory by a very hard working Sunderland outfit against spirited opponents.
Reading FC Women: Grace Moloney, Kerrie Ryan, Gemma Sims, Emma Delves, Kelly Chambers, Lois Roche, Charlotte Young, Nikki Watts, Alice Palmer, Stacie Donnelly, Melissa Fletcher. Subs: Stacy Wiggins, Becky Jane, Megan Alexander.
Sunderland: Rachel Laws, Abby Holmes, Nicola Devine, Rachel Furness, Gemma Wilson, Steph Bannon, Keira Ramshaw, Kelly McDougall, Beth Mead, Natalie Gutteridge, Sophie Williams. Subs: Helen Alderson, Jordan Atkinson, Hannah Caldwell, Ellie Christon, Rebecca Salicki.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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