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Birmingham City 1-1 Reading

 Reading's season is effectively done, but there are some interesting stories still to delve into; mainly around the churn in the squad. Rachel Rowe and Brooke Chaplen have recently signed contract extensions, but there doesn't seem to be anyone to take the deeper role at present. 

With Fishlock having left, Williams seems to be tasked more with dropping deeper and progressing the ball. She completed 1,500 yards of passes - which is almost twice as much as any previous match. Likewise, the 600 progressive yards bettered her previous best of 350. It did admittedly help that Reading dominated possession, but Reading had a similar level against Bristol City earlier in the season, and Williams didn't hit those same numbers.

On the whole, they used the same 4-1-4-1 system as during the FA Cup. James was the deepest midfielder again, but with the aforementioned Williams also looking to pick up the ball deeper. James' positioning allowed the full backs to push forward, particularly Woodham on the left who at one point made a run beyond Birmingham's defence with Cooper in possession at the back. The defensive midfielder dropped between the centre backs, splitting them and pushing them wider - giving cover across the pitch without the FBs having to play defensively.

It was largely down the left-hand side that The Royals attacked. Woodham and Carter combined for 108 open play touches, compared to 64 for Eikeland and Roberts down the other side. Carter often played in the half-space on the left, with Woodham overlapping on the outside. The attacking midfielder, despite only successfully controlling roughly 65% of passes into her (largely because of the balls into her, it must be said), received more progressive passes than anyone on the field (11).

Harding with no left foot struggles, and this highlights something talked about after Spurs about Harries' running needing work

One of the stranger decisions was the substitution of Woodham. It was 70 minutes in, at the same time that Chambers brought off Roberts from the right. Perhaps it was to manage the minutes of the youngsters but ended up with Harding playing at left-back. The Wales international seems to be Chambers' Swiss Army Knife, but without much of a left foot, she struggled to be incisive from that side. 

Whoever was up front the main issue the side had was creating chances. Despite totalling 18 shots they only managed to accumulate 1.0 xG, with only four ending on target. Frankly, Reading are still too quick to shoot from terrible positions. Most of their shots still come from outside the area, with a third coming from twenty-four yards or greater.

On another day Litteljohn has a foul given against her for backing into Moloney

Both goals in the game are actually fairly similar; Corners that were scored at the second opportunity. Birmingham took the lead early on. Sarah Mayling's inswinging corner almost caught Moloney out, with Ruesha Littlejohn causing a nuisance. The goalkeeper got fingertips to it but Cooper was still needed to clear off the line but that fell perfectly to Ruby Mace to smash home. The shot was almost straight at Moloney but she couldn't get a good enough palm to the ball to keep it out.

In the second half, it was Fara Williams' corner that unlocked things for The Royals. Her deep delivery was met by Cooper at the back post. The keeper's save came out to Rowe, sprinting to get to the ball first, and she seemed to leather it hoping it would find a way through - and it did. Reading have relied on set pieces a few times to get them into games, and here they needed one to save a point.

This was Reading's seventh 1-1 draw in 20 WSL matches, and next season they're going to have to find ways to win matches like this to start heading back toward that top four after a disappointing season. After twenty matches they have the same number of points as last season, which was cancelled after 14.


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