Fareham drew 1-1 at Reading 2s on Saturday. It was their third draw in the last four matches and also marked the first time that we have avoided defeat against the Berkshire side. The effort was all the more noteworthy as the late pushback time contributed to a reduced Fareham squad of just 14 players, including league debuts for Hollie Smith and Annabel Vigar.
The visitors started positively and forced Reading onto the back foot from the start. They were rewarded with a goal in the 2nd minute. AIMEE TIMMS saw her initial shot blocked from a penalty corner but steered the rebound wide of keeper Mia James’ right hand into the bottom corner.
They continued to have the better of the opening quarter as Reading’s best effort was touched just wide four minutes later after a dangerous run and cross from the right.
The home side had the first opportunity of the second quarter but shot wide from a penalty corner. Five minutes later, in the 24th minute, Fareham almost doubled the lead. They won a penalty corner after some tenacious play by Gracie Coleman. The first shot was partially cleared by the defence as far as Lydia Jackson who shot narrowly wide of the left post.
Reading increased the pressure towards the end of the half but were denied in the 32nd minute by Sophia Barclay who kept out a shot from a penalty corner with a strong foot.
Half-time arrived with Fareham having kept a third consecutive first half clean sheet (and their fourth in the last five league games). Nevertheless, Reading began strongly in the third quarter and won a string of penalty corners.
A strong shot from a PC was deflected high by Sophia and led to another corner as the pressure grew. Three minutes later, in the 43rd minute, the hosts were level as the ever dangerous SHANNON ROSS scored with a deflection from a penalty corner.
Both sides looked for an opening in the remainder of the period but at this stage Reading looked the most likely to go ahead.
Heading into the final corner, Reading resumed strongly with another shot from a penalty corner which was cleared off the pads of Sophia.
With ten minutes remaining the game could have gone either way but there was a change in momentum. Reading started to look the more tired of the two sides as Fareham seized the initiative and stormed forward, moving the ball around with pace. Even though they themselves were tired and a couple were carrying injuries, the work rate could not be faulted. As the end of the game drew near it was the Berkshire side who looked on the ropes and holding on.
Unfortunately, despite some excellent approach play, Fareham couldn’t quite manufacture a good enough chance to regain the lead and Reading managed to break out of defence with a minute remaining for one last opportunity to score the winner themselves but their final shot was deflected high and wide.
The final score was probably a fair reflection of the game. We had chances to score more goals but we also had to withstand some long periods of pressure. The wait continues for our first win but this was a good draw in the circumstances. Even though we have improved considerably since the early part of the season, there were probably few people who witnessed the previous meeting of the sides who would have expected us to come away from the game with any points.
Two draws from the first two matches of the second half of the season was probably less than we deserved and the extra points from at least one victory would have helped considerably. However, Basingstoke and Cheltenham have both failed to pick up any points in the same period and so we have moved closer but we can’t expect them to stand still forever and we will need to win games.
We are back at Henry Cort on Saturday with a home game against the leaders, Bristol Firebrands (13.30). The away game finished 1-1 and whilst it will be a tough assignment it is a game we are capable of winning.