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Oxford Utd 0 Reading FC Women 4 (Ward 14, Watts 37, Jane 40, Follis 59)
Reading FC Women stretched the gap between themselves and third placed Yeovil Town to six points after a strong display carried them to an impressive victory at Abingdon.
Despite a valiant effort, the home side sorely missed suspended captain Sahara Osbourne-Ricketts in the centre of defence against a rampant Reading attack who all got on the scoresheet for the WSL 2 promotion hopefuls.
Oxford did start the livelier of the two sides early on and won a number of corners but Reading began to assume control of matters. They made the breakthrough after fourteen minutes when Lauren Bruton slid a good pass into the path of Helen Ward who beat Hannah Cox with an unerring finish, a left foot shot which went in off the far post.
Reading continued to press and had a great chance to double their lead when Lois Roche's pass picked out Nikki Watts who rounded Cox and looked certain to score but found the angle too acute and her shot struck the far post before Chloe Bruce was able to clear. Ward then got the ball in the net but the goal was ruled out for an offside decision.
Oxford's best moments in the first half were coming from debutant striker Destiney Toussaint and she showed good pace when running at the Reading defence, carrying the ball into the area before her shot flashed across the face of goal, just evading Katie Stanley at the far post.
A few minutes later though, Reading were to strike a telling blow with the second goal. Bruton was causing problems by drifting into the gap between midfield and defence and was again the instigator, her pass being touched on by Emma Follis and this time Watts made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Before Oxford could recover from the setback, Ward clipped a shrewd pass over their defence and into the path of the overlapping Rebecca Jane and although Cox got a hand to her shot, she could not prevent the ball from finding the net for the third goal.
Oxford tried to freshen things up with a double substitution at half time but found themselves under pressure from the restart. Bruton broke into the area and her shot was saved at the near post by Cox, the rebound falling for Nia Jones but Isi Meade did to throw herself in front of the ball to prevent it from crossing the line.
A minute later, Follis won the ball from Cox on the edge of the area and squared the ball across goal, but the keeper was able to recover and block the resulting shot by Watts.
Cox pulled off another good save, diving full length to keep out a firm 20-yard strike by Jones, but the pressure was to tell in the end. Lois Roche's initial shot was charged down but she was able to feed Follis and the striker produced a clever finish on the turn, planting her shot inside the far corner.
Oxford did not give up and were inches away from getting on the scoresheet themselves, Kayleigh Hines drilling a 25-yard free kick which was touched onto the bar by Grace Moloney, Helen King following up but unable to direct her header on target from the rebound.
The home side continued to look for what would have been a deserved consolation and it almost came as Laura Nichol played a great pass into the area for King whose shot was saved by Moloney.
The hot weather began to take its toll on both teams and the pace slowed down late on. Bruton skied a shot over the bar after a Bianca Bragg cross had been half cleared but it was a job well done on the day for Reading and three more valuable points secured in their promotion challenge.
Oxford Utd: Hannah Cox, Chloe Bruce (sub Laura Nichol 45mins), Isi Meade, Kayleigh Hines, Amy Chivers, Rosie Lane, Katie Stanley (sub Lindsay Pinker 67mins), Katherine Nutman, Destiney Toussaint, Helen King, Holly Pickett (sub Laura Low 45mins). Subs not used: Demi Lambourne, Sophie Baker.
Reading FC Women: Grace Moloney, Rebecca Jane, Harriet Scott, Nia Jones (sub Laura May Walkley 71mins), Kirsty McGee, Kylie Davies, Emma Follis (sub Bianca Bragg 78mins), Helen Ward, Lauren Bruton, Lois Roche, Nikki Watts (sub Rachel Rowe 61mins). Subs not used: Georgie Giddings, Charlie Estcourt, Melissa Fletcher, Chloe Sansom.
(top) Lauren Bruton plays the ball under pressure from Kayleigh Hines
(middle) Rebecca Jane scores Reading's third goal
(bottom) Harriet Scott slides in to tackle Katie Stanley
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