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Sunderland fight back for vital point
 Women's Football News 24 Aug 2014
Sunderland fight back for vital point - 24 Aug 2014 - Women's Football NewsReading FC Women 1 (Kirby 41) Sunderland 1 (Furness 58)
Sunderland grabbed a precious draw in their quest for promotion with a second half equaliser away to Reading. 
Second best for much of the opening half, the Black Cats showed why they are unbeaten in WSL 2 with a determined second half showing which blunted the threat from the home side and mounted sustained pressure on the Reading defence. A goal from Rachel Furness cancelled out Fran Kirby's 42nd minute opener, both efforts being strikes of the highest order.
Lois Roche had a very good chance to open the score on two minutes but blasted over from eight yards after Kirby got free on the left. Reading were moving the ball round very effectively and the visitors were penned back for most of the first quarter of an hour. Roche sent a 25-yard free kick just over Rachael Laws' bar and Bonnie Horwood's header went wide from a corner.
A run from Furness won a corner on 15 minutes, the first time Sunderland had approached Nicky Davies' goal. Despite some well constructed moves by the Royals, Sunderland were looking strong in defence. Kirby was the main threat, driving into the area before curling a shot just wide on 38 minutes.
Four minutes later, the England international opened the scoring with a moment of class. Molly Bartrip did well to retrieve a loose ball from a corner and find Kirby wide on the left. Speeding past two challenges, Kirby moved along the 18-yard line before curling a right foot strike wide of Laws' dive.
Sunderland returned with renewed aggression and dominated right from the restart. Davies tipped over their first effort on target after 50 minutes but the equaliser was not long in coming. A free kick was awarded wide on the right and from Vicky Greenwell's lofted ball, Reading could only partially clear under pressure from Keira Ramshaw and Furness was on hand to bury the bouncing ball from ten yards.
Furness went close from distance as Sunderland pressed whilst Beth Mead was denied by a fine save by Davies from a sweetly hit volley on 75 minutes. Reading tried hard to regain some momentum but were unable to break down the Black Cats' defence. Shelly Cox sent in an inviting cross but
Melissa Fletcher's header was off target.
Later on Kirby was denied by a fine Greenwell tackle as she went to shoot but in truth, these were isolated sights of goal. Sunderland saw out time comfortably and kept the Reading defence fully occupied with their strength in the air and constant pressing when not in possession.
Sunderland were able to keep their unbeaten League record despite not being at their best whilst Reading will regret not being able to sustain their fine first half display. 
Reading FC Women: Nicola Davies, Rebecca Jane, Shelly Cox, Georgie Giddings, Molly Bartrip, Kirsty McGee, Bonnie Horwood, Lauren Bruton, Lois Roche (sub Cheryl Williams 66mins), Fran Kirby, Rebekah Haines (sub Melissa Fletcher 34mins). Subs not used: Grace Moloney, Laura May Walkley, Bianca Bragg, Alex Keown, Harriet Scott.

Sunderland: Rachael Laws, Abby Holmes, Vicki Greenwell, Steph Bannon, Hayley Sharp, Rachel Furness, Keira Ramshaw (sub Emma Kelly 79mins), Kelly McDougall, Beth Mead, Rebekah Bass (sub Megan Beer 86mins), Sophie Williams. Subs not used: Helen Alderson, Elizabeth McCubbin, Gemma Wilson, Lauren Briggs, Abbey Joice.

(Report by Patrick Higgins)

Photos by Susan Gutteridge:

(top) Abby Holmes holds off a challenge from Georgie Giddings
(bottom) Sophie Williams gets in a shot for Sunderland

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