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Reading FC Women 2 Portsmouth 1
Reading claimed their second group stage win in the Premier League Cup at Tadley on Sunday and ensured a place in the last sixteen of the competition.
However, their opponents, Portsmouth, made them work very hard for a 2-1 win. Pompey played for forty minutes with ten players and the last twenty minutes with nine after Molly Clark and then Lauren Murphy had been sent off but it took a 86th minute Michaela Howell shot and a goalkeeping error to settle the tie.
Even with a two player disadvantage, the visitors pressed forward and went very close to clinching the equaliser their performance probably deserved in added time.
After a cagey opening period, it was Pompey who created most of the early chances, Michelle Beazley making a fine save from Justine Lorton's free kick and Gemma Hillier setting up a chance which was fired just over.
Kelly Chambers went close with a powerful header well saved by Lou Worsfold but it was Pompey who took the lead on 23 minutes. After another fine Beazley save from a Hillier shot, the ball was returned into the centre of the goal where Cassie Thorp tapped the ball home with Reading appealing in vain for offside.
Pompey were comfortable even after Molly Clark's straight red dismissal for violent conduct on 34 minutes. Hillier was denied doubling the lead by another good save. Reading's Natasha Caswell went very close to equalising just before the break, having a goal ruled out for offside and sweeping a shot inches wide.
Caswell was inches wide again after the break and Gemma Sims blasted over from close in on 53 minutes as the National Division side dominated but it took until the halfway point in the second half for an equaliser to come, a super 25-yard shot from Sims.
The second dismissal was a second yellow for Murphy, presumably for verbal reaction towards a refereeing decision. Ironically, Portsmouth played brilliantly with nine, their experienced midfield of Lorton, Thorp. Kirsty McGee and Shelly Cox playing keepball for a fair proportion of the twenty minutes remaining and the back four defending calmly.
Just when it seemed that the visitors might escape with a point, disaster struck them on 86 minutes. A fine run and cross from Nikki Watts was missed by Caswell but fell to Howell whose fierce shot was straight at Worsfold. The Pompey keeper could not hold the ball and it rolled between her legs and just over the line.
Back came Pompey, with a Cox shot just wide and a Lorton free kick scrambled off the line. Worsfold went up for a corner and nearly made amends as she headed just wide but Reading clung on for the win at the end of a dramatic and enthralling encounter.
Reading, many of whose players had been involved in a Futsal tournament in Sheffield the previous day, will be delighted to grab the victory and they kept pressing even when being frustrated by nine opponents. Pompey will surely feel robbed, but they played with great spirit and skill and, with three points, still have a chance to qualify after Keynsham Town and Yeovil drew their other group encounter, their final match being against Yeovil in early October.
Reading FC Women: Michelle Beazley, Jasmin Brewster, Gemma Sims, Danielle Puddefoot, Emma Pearmine, Kelly Chambers, Nikki Watts, Charlotte Chard, Michaela Howell, Natasha Caswell, Megan Alexander. Subs: Stacey Wiggins, Linda Chilton.
Portsmouth: Louise Worsfold, Lysette Russell, Jade Kirby, Molly Clark, Lauren Murphy, Kerri Ryan, Shelly Cox, Kirsty McGee, Gemma Hillier, Justine Lorton, Cassie Thorp. Subs: Laura Streeter, Zoe Nash, Lucy Kiel.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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