Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Reading Ladies 3 v 0 Durham Ladies

Saturday 11th July 2015
FA Women's Super League 2
Cherrywood Road, Farnborough
Admission: £5.00
Programme: N/A
Attendance: 319
Match Rating: 4

For my opening game of the 2015/16 season, a limited choice of tepid friendlies very early in preseason did not sufficiently appeal, and so I chose a competitive women's game instead. It would be a good time to watch a women's game, with a real feel-good factor about the game in this country following the England women's team's outstanding achievement of claiming third place in the Women's World Cup earlier this month.

Cherrywood Road is located just under half an hour's walk from Farnborough North railway station, and is an impressive and attractive ground, with the large welcome board at the entrance to the car park and colourful, coordinated and tasteful signage in and around the stadium. It's a very rare example of a ground that has been completely overhauled in recent years and still retains an interesting and traditional look, as well as vastly improving facilities. One enters in one corner, with posters chronicling the up and down history of Farnborough FC, its preceding team, Farnborough Town and of the ground's development over the years next to the club house. There is then mainly flat standing, which housed a rather halfhearted kiddies fun zone today, before one reaches a large all-seater stand straddling the half way line, with only the rear half covered, hospitality boxes above and to the rear, whilst on the ground floor is the large clubhouse. An additional stand has been annexed to the side of it, similar in look, size and cover yet still looking out of place with the rest of the stand. Beyond the stand and the corner flag are about a dozen terrace steps, with a small area closest to the corner flag covered.Behind the goal by the entrance is a large modern all-seater stand stretching between corner flags. Behind the opposite goal is terracing with only the rear portion covered, whilst cover stretches along the remaining length, half of which is seated and the other half terracing. It will certainly be one of the best grounds in the Isthmian League this season, following Farnborough's relegation to it, indeed is a more than a match for some National League Premier Division grounds. An 18 page full colour programme was produced, somewhat overpriced and seemed to have been written a while ago, but did contain the essential facts and some interesting articles.

In this, the first round of games after the summer break, Reading came into this game top of the table, with 22 points from nine games. This game appeared to be a great opportunity to consolidate that lead, with today's opponents in eighth place in the ten team division, with seven points from their nine games. Whereas Reading had won their last four games before the break, Durham lost their previous four, most recently being a game against today's hosts, with Reading winning 5-0. Reading's push for the title did take a slight knock in midweek though, when they sold Fran Kirby, who scored 11 goals in five league games so far this season and made a considerable impact for England at the World Cup this summer, to Chelsea for a record British transfer fee.

At the end of a gloriously warm and sunny day, Durham surprisingly had  the better of the opening exchanges, even seeing a long range shot hit the top of the crossbar, and it was somewhat against the run minutes when Reading took the lead on 13 mimutes, when Kirsty McGee's far post header squirmed into the net. That proved to be the decisive moment of the match, as the result then never looked in doubt, with Reading playing some lovely incisive passing football, while Durham at times looked shaky at the back and were certainly physical in their challenges. Reading's neat brand of football almost conjured up a goal on 26 minutes, when a delightful one-two left Rebecca Jane through on goal, who tried to dink the ball over the keeper but couldn't quite manage it, and as she tried to swivel and get a follow up shot on goal with the ball behind her, the goalbound shot was weak and cleared by a defender. They came agonisingly close on the half hour mark, when a free kick over 30 yards out struck the crossbar with the keeper rooted to her spot. Reading did score a deserved second a minute before half time though, when a perfectly judged low through ball sprung the offside trap, and Emma Follis showed great composure to take her time before knocking the ball to the side of the keeper before tapping it into the empty net.

The result really was beyond doubt now, and Reading completely dominated the second half. They hit the woodwork two more times, as well as other near misses,  and it wasn't until the 81st minute that they finally added a third goal. After yet another excellent penetrating run to the byline, the ball was crossed into the six yard box, and although the keeper managed to prevent an own goal when a defender deflected the cross goalbound, Follis nodded the ball into the net which the keeper couldn't quite claw out before it crossed the line. Deep into added on time and Durham had an amazing escape, when Reading saw an initial effort yet again hit the woodwork, and the close range follow up shot blocked for a corner. But the final result was still comfortable and was a just result with the more skilful football prevailed over a more agricultural approach.

Video highlights of this match can be found here

No comments: