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Women's Football News
Aston Villa 2 (Robinson 88, Baptiste 90) Reading FC Women 3 (Scott 44, Ward 60, Bragg 81)
Reading FC Women were crowned as FA WSL 2 Champions after picking up the victory they needed to clinch the title at Sutton Coldfield.
Kelly Chambers' side were pushed all the way by Aston Villa and pulled back two late goals but the Royals' greater strength and experience showed on the day.
Reading had been dealt a blow shortly before kick off when Nikki Watts pulled a hamstring in the warm up and Bianca Bragg came in as a replacement. They started the game a little nervously whilst Villa, in a run of good form themselves, produced the early efforts on goal with Mollie Rouse and Katie Wilkinson both having shots saved by Grace Moloney.
Reading began to settle and started to look more of a threat going forward. Indeed, they had a good chance when a Lois Roche corner picked out an unmarked Bragg but her header was wide of the target.
Two minutes later, Reading looked to have created a great chance when Rebecca Jane broke down the right and into the area before squaring the ball across goal for Bragg, who was poised to score but was denied by a great saving tackle from Olivia Fergusson.
Laura May Walkley was to go very close with a dipping shot which came back off the bar as Reading took hold of the midfield area with Roche and Rachel Rowe in lively form. Villa were also producing chances of their own though, the best of which coming when Beth Merrick played a fine ball over the Reading defence which bounced nicely for Wilkinson to volley goalwards but just past the post.
The game had been stopped for a while after Harriet Scott had been caught by an accidental boot in the face from Merrick but the full back, after having a cut heavily bandaged, was to have a telling say just before half time. Reading's longest serving player received the ball on the edge of the area and curled home a glorious right foot strike. Caitlin Leach did well to get a hand to the ball but could not prevent it from finding the far top corner and Reading were in the lead.
It could have been two in injury time as Walkley's pass released Helen Ward who made her way into the area before being denied by a fine save from Leach.
Reading sought to press home their advantage at the start of the second half and were unlucky not to go two ahead when a corner was cleared as far as the edge of the area and Ward's first time shot struck the bar.
A free kick on the hour led to the strike which put daylight between the two teams. Roche floated a free kick to the far post where Emma Follis played the ball across the face of goal and Ward reacted quickest to slot the ball past Leach from point blank range.
Follis brought out a good save from Leach after working an opening for herself and Rowe shot wide after a bustling run into the area. The chances were not falling exclusively Reading's way though, at the other end Hayley Crackle drove in a teasing cross from the right but Merrick's header was just wide at the far post.
With nine minutes remaining, Bonnie Horwood's pass released Follis through on goal and she held off the attentions of Hannah George before her shot was blocked by Leach, but Bragg had followed up to tuck home the loose ball and Reading were three ahead.
The game appeared over as a contest but Villa did not give up and gave themselves some hope late on. Fergusson's corner was headed firmly home by Alicia Robinson to reduce the arrears.
Deep into injury time, a free kick into the area was controlled by Natasha Baptiste, who managed to bundle her shot past Moloney on the turn and Villa were suddenly one goal behind.
There was no more time left though and Reading's celebrations could finally begin, captain Kirsty McGee receiving the trophy to mark a memorable season for her club.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle, Hannah George, Katy Moran (sub Natasha Baptiste 77mins), Elisha N'Dow, Jade Richards, Olivia Fergusson, Mollie Rouse (sub Maddy Cusack 57mins), Katie Wilkinson, Beth Merrick (sub Lucy Shepherd 83mins), Alicia Robinson. Subs not used: Jess Myers, Abbey Leigh Stringer, Amy West, Laura Cooper.
Reading FC Women: Grace Moloney, Rebecca Jane, Harriet Scott (sub Nia Jones 58mins), Laura May Walkley (sub Bonnie Horwood 45mins), Kylie Davies, Kirsty McGee, Rachel Rowe, Helen Ward, Melissa Fletcher (sub Emma Follis 58mins), Lois Roche, Bianca Bragg. Subs not used: Molly Bartrip, Charlie Estcourt, Chloe Sansom.
(top) Katie Wilkinson gets in a shot under pressure from Rachel Rowe
(middle) Bianca Bragg slots home the third and title winning goal
(bottom) Celebration time for Reading!
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