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Reading 0-5 West Ham

 Reading won many plaudits after the game away at Manchester City, but realistically could have been on the end of a similar scoreline had it not been for some wayward finishing by The Sky Blues. 

West Ham cut off options, Fishlock is forced to try a difficult pass out to Woodham on the left (out of shot) and turns the ball over

The Royals have attempted to play out from goal kicks pretty much all year, and Moloney tapping to Fishlock has been used on many an occasion. It's worked before - the team scored against Bristol after a similar move - but it does come with risk associated. There didn't seem to be many options out from the box, and the midfielder's pass was cut out. The ball ended up at the feet of Kenza Dali, with Deanna Cooper standing off her rather than engaging. Still, The Hammers benefitted from a healthy slice of luck as her cross (as it patently was) ended up lobbing Moloney and sneaking in at the back post.

Reading have seven players over, and two by the free-kick. Thomas races out to the opposite side to start the counter.

That led to the floodgates opening. A Reading free-kick on the edge of West Ham's third saw seven hooped shirts attacking the box, with two more stood over the set-piece against the right touchline. Fara Williams delivery was far too simple for the goalkeeper, and West Ham instantly broke down the opposite flank.  A ball to the edge of the box was cut out by Rachel Rowe but miscontrolled, allowing Longhurst to steal possession. She attacked the byline, and crossed to Katerina Svitkova to head in, completely unmarked, at the back post.

Moloney is already on her way down when she could have stayed upright and saved easily - she does have a slight tendency to do this more generally.

It took thirty seconds from the kick-off for things to get even worse. West Ham's press was well-coordinated, and a mistake from Fishlock trying to lay the ball back to James was punished. West Ham were immediately four-on-two, and Dali fed through to Martha Thomas who chipped over Moloney. The woman between the sticks got a palm to it but I think she was expecting a shot across her, and her hand wasn't enough to stop it trickling into the net.

Three goals where West Ham just worked hard. Obviously there is a little more to it than that. They pressed well too, but it was that energy level that allowed them to in the first place, and combined that with a quick counter-attack. A sloppy Reading performance let them get a frankly unassailable lead after just ten minutes.

It wasn't over there, though. They may have navigate a quarter of an hour unscathed - a period where they were actually the better side - but they shot themselves in the foot again. A lazy pass from Rachel Rowe gave the ball to Cecilie Kvamme, who linked with Thomas to play around Woodham. Cooper came across to cover the right wing back, but Rowe couldn't make up the ground to cut out the ball across to Thomas.

Cooper challenges in midfield, and the ball falls to Dali who clips it over the top. Thomas is just quicker than Leine, who doesn't get close in the end.

37 minutes in and West Ham finished their rout. A long ball down field fell to Dali, who lifted over Reading's defence and Thomas completed her hat-trick by lobbing over Moloney from the edge of the box as the goalie tried to come for the ball. Leine looked to have the run mostly covered off, but just went backwards as Thomas breezed past her.

This isn't just a West Ham side that have only won three games all season, but one that - up until the game at the Madejski - had failed to score seven times or roughly 45% of matches.

We're at the point in the season where I can't even be bothered to fully critique the rest of the match. What's the point? Reading played their kick and chase brand of football. The only change made during the match was to bring on Emma Harries at half time. Understandable, and she did provide a bit more of a target but the game was gone.

Likely not the way that Fishlock wanted to end her stint on this side of the pond, and I'm in two minds about how it will affect Reading. She had moments that cost Reading, but that's because everything went through her. Just check out how many stats she ranks in the top 15% of. So it's obviously a blow overall, but maybe it will force a rethink. It will have to next season when both James and Williams have departed or retired.

Next up to watch Reading play 120 minutes with Spurs (it was truly no surprise that they needed extra time to find a winner) in the FA Cup. I will end this on the note that up until this point Reading had played nineteen matches and won four.


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