October 11, 2020 by Stephen L Wright
I said in my preview that today’s was going to be a tough game with no love lost between the two sides. As these stats, courtesy of BBC Sport, show it was Reading’s game. But then again the stats don’t always convey the truth.
Blues took Reading’s advances and efforts at goal, in their stride. They were relaxed, together, linking up, switching up position, moving confidently around the pitch. Even when Reading got into the area, they didn’t panic but cleared their lines and regrouped. This was no replay of the last time the two teams met – when the stats were incredibly similar.
After a shaky opening ten minutes, including a nicely weighted pass from Lucy Whipp to Brooke Chaplen, which nearly resulted in a Reading goal, followed soon after by an Angharad James high lob that came off the bar, Blues settled down and grew noticeably more confident.
To remind you of Marta Tejedor’s thoughts on Georgia Brougham, who she didn’t play in January: “[She] can build from the back, link with people around her and make good connections, even join in with the higher lines.” And she did just that today, as well as being a member of a growing in confidence backline. She did it because she can and because, in Carla Ward, she has a Head Coach that not only believes in her but puts her in the Starting XI in a position she clearly enjoys.
Becks Holloway got the yardage under her boots, too. She was up and down the pitch linking and creating plays. And, with Brougham and Rachel Corsie, didn’t leave Hanah Hampton wanting for help but was back in position keeping the defensive shape we’ve needed.
And Hampton played a superb game. Her diving save to deny Jess Fishlock on the twelve minute mark was just one example of several confident moves. There was just one occasion, on the stroke of the hour, when she found herself away from her line, but Brougham stuck with Lauren Bruton, who was inches from scoring, and denied her a goal.
Newcomer, Jamie-Lee Napier also impressed me today. She held her nerve, won some good challenges and played some great link up football.
But it’s the super confidence and self belief of Claudia Walker that is getting the fans talking. Last season was not a good one for her and no-one would have blamed her if she’d joined the leavers. Now, all that’s a distant memory in another time. Now, through Carla Ward’s belief in her, she’s playing the football of her life. She’s only missed an hour in all the game’s so far. Today, even as the game reached its closing stages, she ran like a substitute. Her goal, that sealed Blues’ first points of the season, was the perfect finish from a ball played to her feet by Sarah Mayling. The joy on her face was something you want to bottle and keep.
This may have been Blues’ first win, and points, in the league but it’s their third win of the season. And it won’t be their last.
This is what one fan had to say: “Shape suits us down to the ground. Difference in believing in what the manager is asking of you.”
The win puts the club in 8th place. They’re away again next week at Bristol, currently sitting in the relegation zone. Now, and thanks to fan Vicky for the maths, if Blues can score three and Reading (H – Man City) and Brighton (A – Everton) lose then it will be 6th place.
As ever, preview to come. As ever, until then…