Midweek madness this time as we head into our next match. Reading had proved to be an impenetrable force when we played them earlier in the season. Many teams discount them as a middling team, easy to beat, forgetting the players they have. With the likes of Fara Williams, Tash Harding and Gemma Davidson, this not a team to discredit quickly.
This time I was being slightly more sensible and got the train instead of my usual 6-hour coach journey. Yay, no M6 for me, a change would do me good. The train, however, comes with its own challenges. Have you ever tried to change your clothes in a Virgin train toilet? The anxiety that the door will fly open and the world will see you half naked, the fear is real people.
On my train was an adorable little boy who had questions about everything and had answers to his own questions. Even if these were slightly skewed, however I did learn that a sheep can outrun a train and the reason two of the Beatles were dead is that they were old and fell down the stairs ?.
More importantly, West Ham have a new stadium! One that is viewable from the West Coast mainline apparently. No matter how many times his grandpa told him that it was Wembley, not the London Stadium, he was still convinced that it was West Ham’s ground and it meant he was almost home. Well, Tottenham you heard the boy get out of our stadium.
As with football tea, I clearly had not learnt my lesson with trying to meet Ed on a train. Third times the charm right. Almost successful until we came into the station at opposite ends, just about made it on to the train in the same carriage before the doors shut.
Finally in Reading town centre, we decided to go for a pint in a pub that Ed couldn’t find (ended up settling for a Lloyds) and then when it was time to go to the ground he couldn’t find the bus stop (which we had already passed). Why do I let him direct? Ah yes because if he’s bad at directions then I am worse. ?
’Well at least it’s not in High Wycombe’ which is Reading Women’s normal locale. Its the one thing we were all grateful for was the location of the game. West Ham had been chosen to be one of the few games Reading played at their parent stadium, the Madejski as in actual Reading! I have been to Adams park a few times with the Man City contingent. Never again!! If you don’t drive it is an absolute nightmare. In the middle of an industrial estate where the public transport is once in a blue moon and even then its a long walk up behind some foreboding warehouses.
Getting the ground it was encouraging to see a big crowd gathering outside, the atmosphere was electric with both clubs having a lot riding on this game. We win we go level on points with Bristol meaning the next game we can jump up the table. Reading win and they keep the pressure on Birmingham in 4th. Both clubs wanted it, both sets of fans ready to be the 12th man their club needed.
My seatmate for this half was Brooke’s parents so I was reunited with Pamela. This meant at the very least I wasn’t cheering on my own.
The first 20 mins of the match was scrappy. Not in the sense that the play was bitty and all of the place. More like fisticuffs at dawn, very aggressive and attacking football from both sides. Though West Ham were the better side from the start, with the first opportunity came from Jane Ross after 5 minutes but was saved comfortably by the Reading goalkeeper. A long range shot that didn’t seem to trouble, Grace Maloney at all.
Chances from Leanne Kiernan, Kate Longhurst and Alisha Lehman and a penalty claim that was not given we were decidedly on top. Ria Percival came thundering down the flank and ran into the box looking for a one on one with the keeper. A Reading defender went sliding in and Ria went to ground. From our angle it didn’t look like they had got the ball, just Ria’s ankle. The referee however disagreed and whistled for a fair tackle. Both Pamela and I were unimpressed.
20 mins in, a picture-perfect through ball from Cho our number 20, to Alisha and slotted home past Grace Maloney in the Reading goal. A delicious run by Lehman from the middle of the pitch. Down the right flank and across goal straight down the middle.
0-1 to the claret and blues.
Reading countered immediately and Rachel Furness’s header led to Anna Moorhouse making a fingertip save at full stretch. Reading pressed again this time Fara Williams charging at our back line, the danger was snuffed out quickly by Anna.
We finished the first half with a narrow lead.
Whilst Ed left me for reasons only known to him, I sat and chatted with Brooke’s parents. Learning more about Brooke’s previous playing career and a few embarrassing childhood stories. I promise Brooke I won’t use them for blackmail proposes ( unless I can get an interview out of you because of them).
After they left to go to the other side of the stadium to check out Brooke as we changed ends. ( Come on guys was it something I said). I messaged Crick the score as now the tradition. I still find it ironic that generally when I am down south she is up north. (she is a Man City fan living in the south) Yet she had become one of my closest friends. Ah, the power of football.
Ed is back in his seat so now it must be the second half.
Right off the bat, Reading were pushing for that equalizer, forcing our backline to make some rash clearances from our area. The run of play for the first 10 minutes was definitely in Reading’s favour.
What they didn’t count on was our midfield, in what was a carbon copy of the first goal we got our second. Cho with a clean dummy pass through the middle found Alesha yet again. Swift run down the flank she passed the Reading defence and got her brace.
0-2 to the visitors. So far a good away trip, definitely worth taking the time off work to make the match.
A quarter of an hour later Reading pull one back. Both Anna and the Reading striker going for the ball. The ref decided it was a mishandled save and pointed the spot. Fara Williams stepped up and with her pinpoint accuracy was never going to miss, from 12 yards.
1-2 but we were still the stronger side.
A few more great chances which we couldn’t quite put away but eventually the tie was ours. The highlight was the Irish youngest Leanne Kiernan, though she didn’t get on the scoresheet, had a blistering pace on her which caused the Reading defense all sorts of problems. Our number eight has a bright future and here’s hoping its with us.
After a quick catch up with some of the players, it was time to head back into London and on to the hotel. I was knackered by now, it had been a long day.
On our way back a couple of us began to discuss the referee. It’s been publicly noted by both managers this one missed key decisions which could have turned the game. The state of refereeing in the woman’s game, on the whole, is poor. I know that being a ref is hard and you can’t do right for doing wrong most of the time. There are some brilliant ones who actually want to be there and don’t see it as easy money.
On the other hand, I have been to matches where they have missed blatant calls, pulled back players for a free kick when advantage should be played, condescending to players when explaining their decisions. I heard one ref call Raff dear when he was trying to get her to come back for a throw in. I think the refs forget that the stadiums are small and we can hear them most of the time.
This is top-level football and it wouldn’t even stand in the non-league of the men’s never mind the premier league. We need top level refs as much as anything else in order to progress the league. At the very least we need to get some non patronizing ones who aren’t on step way from a Michael Winner commercial.
Next time its another midweek clash, I try and become a ball girl and we try to not let Storm Gareth ruin our fun.