On paper going into the game, it looked as if Reading had this match covered. With a far superior goal difference, and on a better run of form in the league, the Royals should have won the contest easily.
Oxford definitely put up a fight, however, and managed to triple their total goals tally for the season in one evening. Finishing 2-2, courtesy of a great volley from each side to finish off the game, Oxford may have felt that they deserved more. The point was enough for Reading to move to the top spot in WSL 2, but they will have been frustrated by their overall performance.
Oxford made two changes following their 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa last time out. Isi Meade came into the side at left-back in place of Chloe Bruce, while Hanna Jaadla made her debut in place of Ella Franklin-Fraiture. Reading also made a couple of changes following their 4-2 defeat to Yeovil. Helen Ward started her first game of the season, replacing Bianca Bragg, while Kirsty McGee started in place of Rachel Rowe.
Oxford took the lead early on, with Reading struggling to get any real foothold on the game. A Katie Stanley corner came into the box and was not confidently dealt with by Reading keeper Grace Maloney, who punched the ball away to Holly Pickett. Pickett then crossed the ball back in, where ex-Reading player Kayleigh Hines was ready and waiting to finish the chance off with a header.
Reading soon recovered from the early setback. Ten minutes after the Oxford goal, Reading were given the opportunity to equalise when they were awarded a penalty right on the edge of the area. Lauren Bruton was deemed to have been obstructed by captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts and it was Bruton who stepped up to take the opportunity. The Reading midfielder calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner with ease past the Oxford goalkeeper Demi Lambourne.
Neither side managed to create any real chance before the half-time break, with Oxford being notably strong but fair in their challenges, and Reading not managing to string enough balls together to get into the box where Fran Kirby was being effectively marked by the opposition.
Kirby arguably had the best chance of the game that was not taken, when a through ball saw her in on goal. With a chance to take on the keeper, the usually prolific striker dragged her shot wide of the goal. In a game where her chances were limited by the Oxford defence, she would have been frustrated to have not put that one away.
The second half began with Reading retaining possession, trying to create an opportunity. Oxford seemed to sit back a bit, effectively defending in numbers. On the counter attack, Oxford did have the speed that was capable of causing Reading a problem if executed well enough.
“I think everyone that’s going to play against us is going to try and come out and beat us and, if you like, this was a bit of a game of the season for them especially with this being a local derby.”– Reading FC Women’s Manager Kelly Chambers
Oxford were to make Reading regret their earlier opportunity when, against the run of play, they took the lead once more. Hines once again was the creator, but her second of the evening was the better of the two. Creating some space for herself on the edge of the area, the Oxford midfielder fired a great shot into the bottom corner of the Reading goal. It was a goal that was rightly celebrated by the Oxford team, and one that they may have felt had given them the surprise victory.
Reading were not going to give up that easily, however, and only a few minutes later equalised for the second time in the game. The “anything you can do I can do better” lyric springs to mind, as Bruton joined Hines on a brace with a spectacular volley from outside the box into the top corner of Lambourne’s goal.
Despite Reading’s attempts to find a late winner, including a Kirby free-kick which hit the crossbar, Oxford were able to hold onto a well earned point.
Reading may be somewhat disappointed with the result, having now dropped points at home for the second consecutive fixture. At times, some of the first touches and passes were a little off and cost Reading some momentum in the final third. Hats off to Oxford, however, as they clearly had a plan going into the game which they executed almost perfectly. At times the Oxford players were too strong for their opponents and it enabled them to win back possession.
Oxford will now feel more confident going into their next game, with their first away point of the season and a couple more goals on the league table. They face another tough test in the form of third placed Durham at home. Reading, meanwhile, will be hoping to get back to winning ways as they face ex-WSL 1 side Everton in their next game at Farnborough. Everton currently find themselves mid-table, having won one match and drawn three.
Reading FC Women V Everton Ladies FC- Saturday 9th May, 6pm kick-off at Farnborough FC