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Reading 0-0 Tottenham

 After the disappointment of losing to Bristol, a point gained will be seen as a positive. It was, however, not a comfortable performance.

For the first time since November, Reading moved away from the 4-2-2-2 - instead opting for three at the back. Mitchell and Leine moved inside from their usual fullback positions to flank Molly Bartrip. Harding remained on the right, with Lily Woodham her opposite. In the middle James played the deepest of a slightly staggered midfield trio. Fara Williams lined up alongside Fishlock, with the latter the most offensive. Up front, Eikeland and Harries provided the energy.

Not that any of it changed the overall flow of the game. Reading had a good first half before Spurs took control in the second.

The plan seemed to be for Mitchell to find the runs of Eikeland and Harries in that left channel

The defence were a bit of a mess. Early on Leine - starting her first game since her injury in January - began playing simple passes out of play. Mitchell, looking longer, did the same thing. The former Arsenal player was relied upon to be more direct, which she did fairly well, and looked either for Fishlock or the pass behind the defence into the left channel. Sometimes the three centre backs didn't even manage to get passes off, with Spurs' press causing issues, especially after half-time.

It wasn't just on the ball that the defence looked shaky. Mitchell pressed aggressively into midfield on a couple of occasions, leaving herself out of position and compromising the defence. Or Spurs' movement opened a gap between Bartrip and Mitchell that was almost exploited by a midfield runner James should have been tracking.

Leine makes an absolute hash of the situation

All of this doesn't include easily the worst passage of play when Leine, coming into the area from the right side, tried to shield the ball out of play (or back to Moloney). The keeper, however, remained rooted in goal. The pressure from the Ayane caused Leine to touch the ball, so the defender, now in her own six-yard box, opted to pass it to the goalkeeper rather than give away a corner. The pass, going across the goal, missed Moloney's outstretched leg and ran to Mitchell, who was tackled as she attempted to clear from two yards. Thankfully Moloney made a decent save sliding in to stop what would have been a truly calamitous goal.

Obviously, the side should become more comfortable in the formation, but it definitely has teething problems. I think it's relatively clear that one of the issues is players in slightly unfamiliar positions, that haven't forged relationships with their teammates yet.

Harries tries cutting inside, into traffic

And the choice of strikers was interesting. Both Harries and Eikeland are similar types of player, largely relying on their work rate over technical ability. When playing into the channels to run onto the ball then they're good choices, but neither has shown themselves to be particularly adept playing in front of the defence. In Harries' case, that may still come, but she runs into crowds with no solution currently.

One thing that definitely didn't help the strikers was just how poor the crosses coming in were, but there was one moment of promise as the two strikers took things into their own hands. Harries got down the side of the centre back before pulling the ball across to Eikeland, but her contact on the ball under pressure wasn't strong enough to beat the keeper. It's been clear for quite some time why Eikeland is tied as the worst underperformer of xG in the league this season.

Where you would be confident in the 3-5-2 is the midfield trio of England's most capped player, Wales' most capped player, and Angharad James. Williams is still trying to kick herself into gear after her health problems. She completed just 53% of passes and, despite being on corners and taking a couple of free-kicks, she failed to register so much as a shot-creating action (one of the two actions leading to a shot).

Through all this mess, there is one constant. It will come as no surprise that the home team's best chance fell to Fishlock. A pinpoint long ball from Bartrip midway inside her own half, found Fishlock breaking into the final third. Her first touch took her away from one defender, before touching it past a lunging challenge. Her shot on the angle, with just the keeper left to beat, ricocheted off the post and came back out. (Not confident the embedded video will play - but you can click the tweet above to see the chance!)

Sure, 0-0 is better than slipping to consecutive defeats, but there wasn't too many positives to take form the match as a whole. The formation works on paper, but that has to be translated to the pitch. These two sides will meet again in the FA Cup when, at the third attempt, there will have to be a winner.


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