This weekend’s match saw the only two teams left in the Women’s Super League without any points battle it out. Reading sat at 11th on the table, higher up due to goal difference. This match was pivotal to Leicester’s hopes of recovering their season and avoiding last season’s relegation battle.
Bedford made two changes from the Manchester United match. Josie Green is out with an injury and Carrie Jones is eligible to play again after being forced out of the prior match against her home club. O’Brien came into the midfield to replace Green and Jones started up top again alongside Flint.
The Foxes started the match without any ability to maintain possession and having a difficult time putting passes together. The first 20 minutes saw Reading with most of the chances looking like the more threatening side. Around the 30-minute mark the attitude of the Foxes started to shift, with a bit more purpose and intent to their actions. It was still a bit of a sloppy affair, but Leicester looked to be in more control, and Reading looked less a threat. It was clear in the first half the Foxes were only going to get chances by playing direct or off the counter.
In the 36th minute, the Foxes finally found the back of the net (the only goal this league season came as an own goal from Tottenham). The ball found O’Brien in the center of the pitch from a Leicester clearance. O’Brien dribbled through three defenders, finding Flint outside of the 18 who took a couple of touches to get herself set up and score. I take back what I said last week about Flint not fitting in a counter-attacking style. Don’t worry I’m notorious for putting my foot in my mouth, so I’ll eat my humble pie if it means Leicester will score. The Foxes saw out the half looking buoyant and relieved
The second half opened slightly favoring the Foxes, but it became an open state of play. There were 15 shots in the second half and eight of those came from Leicester. Bedford swapped out Flint for Goodwin and O’Brien for Ava Baker, hoping young fresh legs may find another goal to better secure their lead. Neither was able to make much impact on the attack. With the score line still 1-0 favoring the Foxes, Bedford made one last substitute with CJ Bott coming for Carrie Jones. This doubled to waste time and to secure the win with a more defensive and experienced player. Reading’s captain was onto the time-wasting tactic walking/pushing Jones off the last 10 yards of the pitch. Reading was frantic, both teams needed this win and there were still six minutes of extra time. Reading’s urgency paid off. They didn’t panic, just took advantage of open space and picked their shot well. Rachel Rowe scored the first Reading goal in the first minute of stoppage time off a fluke of a corner. Levell was very likely fouled, and the goal should have been disallowed, but until the WSL begins to employ VAR these will continue. The second goal came in the second minute of stoppage time. It took all of two minutes for the tides to turn on the Foxes.
Heartbreak would be an understatement, but this is the second time this season they have not seen out a match and lost in the final minutes. Whelan and the other more experienced players will need to be more disciplined in their game management if they hope to improve from the bottom spot of the table. Green’s injury leaves a big hole in the midfield that Pike, Jones, nor O’Brien are able to fill.
Levell – She’s saved the Foxes from sticky situations and prevented them from having embarrassing score lines a few times this season. She made two good saves, and came out for crosses. The first goal is confusing. It looks like she was fouled by Reading, but with no VAR in the WSL the goal was not overturned. 7
Plumptre – Made surging runs forward and well placed long balls to find the forwards. Of the back three she was the most involved with forward action. 8
Tierney – Solid as usual. Getting back and to block shots and intercepting Reading’s attack. It was her clearance that found O’Brien leading to the goal. She was off balanced and too far into the goal to properly clear the 8
Howard – The back three for Leicester continue to keep them in matches. She has gotten a few shots this season and will have to do better going forward. So much of the attack and opportunities are coming from the defense. 6
Purfield – Continues to the ball into areas for her teammates, unfortunately they are still not finishing those opportunities. Defensively reliable as usual. Her and Jones on the left does not seem to work as well as Simon and Jones on the right. 7
Simon - Wasn’t as active on the attack as we have seen in the past, but had a few involvements in each half. She had an acrobatic diving defensive header to block a Reading shot in the first half. 7
Pike – Her wild shot in stoppage started the sequence to Reading’s second goal. Bedford’s plan may have been to go for all three points, but after Reading’s first goal the Foxes needed to be tidier to see the match out. On the counter action her defense was lax, not making up for her prior mistake. She was not able to fill the shoes of Josie Green as the central midfielder, with her better suited on the left. 5
Jones – She always puts her heart into each match. Her and Simon had found a flow on the right with them understanding each other’s movements. Her and Purfield haven’t gotten to that point. She was still able to make dribble through and find Flint for the shot. 7
Whelan – The Foxes are able to find targets on the attack and get shots, but still the finishing is not there. As the captain Whelan will have to do better with her chances, as most of the available forward line are under the age of 22, with only Flint above that. She will also need to help calm the team on the pitch in the closing minutes. 5
O’Brien – Did well to work her way through Reading’s defenders and to find Flint for the goal. Her and Flint seem comfortable with each other and may need to be the pairing up top. 6
Flint – Did well on the goal, took a few touches to control it and set it up for herself. Her goal visibly relieved her teammates. She had another opportunity in the second half that she could have done more with. 7
Goodwin – ’62 for Flint. Noticeable injection of energy when she came on to the pitch. Wasn’t involved as much in the attack as was expected. The season may depend on the youngsters so they’ll have to take their opportunities. 6
Baker – ’80 for O’Brien. For the short time she was on her and Simon worked well. She’s only 16, so it will be exciting to see how she develops in the future and this season. 6
Bott – ’88 for Jones. She was subbed on to help secure the three points. The first goal was a fluke, but the second she was guilty for not shutting Rowe down. N/A