Beth England brace leaves Reading on the brink

As the WSL reaches the penultimate round of fixtures, Spurs Women hosted Reading Women in a potential relegation ‘six-pointer’ – with a victory for either side the only favourable result. The match was billed as part two of a Tottenham bumper double header, with the men’s and women’s teams playing back to back. The home side were looking to avoid the same result that their male counterparts succumbed to earlier in the day, with a 1-3 loss to Brentford.

TOT: Spencer; Neville, Turner, Bartrip, Harrop; Spence, James, Summanen, Bizet; Ayane, England

REA: Moloney; Mukandi, Evans, Wellings; Eikeland, Wade, Cooper, Mayi Kith, Vanhaevermaet, Primmer, Troelsgaard

An interesting addition to the matchday experience for this fixture was the inclusion of a programme having back-to-back covers featuring stars of the men’s and women’s teams – Lucas Moura and Amy Turner. With the result from the men’s fixture leaving season ticket holders dejected and not delaying their trip to the pub to support their women in a crucial game at the bottom of the WSL, the attendance was far lower than Tottenham would have hoped for.

The home team did start as the brighter of the two sides, with a handful of early chances for the hosts down the left. A particularly enticing ball from Rosella Ayane just evaded Eveliina Summanen’s outstretched leg in the opening moments, and Tottenham were looking the much better side and having a lot of the ball. It was clear that there was a real gulf in quality between the two sides, reflected in their respective performances if not their league positions.

The inevitable eventually occurred and Tottenham were able to break the deadlock, with a well worked corner routine seeing them take the lead through Beth England in the 29th minute. With her 11th goal of the campaign, Spurs’ top scorer had surely secured her side their place in the Women’s Super League for another year. There was great work by Beth England soon after to play Rosella Ayane in again, who had run the Reading defence ragged throughout the first half.

Tottenham looked increasingly more comfortable as the half wore on, and didn’t really need to come out of second gear. As it stood, the result would guarantee their safety – all but relegating Reading, who will face league leaders Chelsea on the final day.

The result was all but confirmed with Tottenham’s second goal in the 41st minute, scored by Celin Bizet following a great through ball from Eveliina Summanen that allowed the midfielder to execute a calm finish in the left hand corner of Grace Moloney’s net. The goal came as a sucker punch for Reading, and the size of the task ahead of them seemed insurmountable heading into the second half.

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Vicky Jepson and Kelly Chambers both made changes to their respective sides following the start of the second period, as Reading looked to get something from the game. Summanen was replaced by Kit Graham for the home side, whilst Reading made a double substitution bringing on Jade Moore and Emma Harries for Lauren Wade and Sanne Troelsgaaard respectively.

As the game reached the hour mark, the away side had yet to really give the hosts any issues and it was a careless back pass from Mayi Kith that Beth England latched onto – calmly rounding the goalkeeper before picking out the far corner of the goal with a delicate finish. Her second goal of the game had sent Spurs 3-0 up, with 28 minutes left to play. For the few supporters who did stay from the earlier game, this performance would be a welcome relief to the dire showing on this field in the Brentford game.

Only a few minutes after the third goal, Mayi Kith was substituted following a fairly torrid performance where she had been unable to keep pace with the Tottenham’s attack. I’m sure it would have been welcome relief to no longer have to deal with Ayane for the rest of the game, and the forward’s work had also been done for the day as she was replaced by Jessica Naz.

The rout was complete in the 75th minute, with substitute Kit Graham finishing calmly and putting the game to bed. Justine Vanhaevermaet clinched one back for the Royals in the 79th minute, but the result was beyond doubt and her strike would be nothing more than mere consolation.

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With the full-time whistle comes the harsh reality that Reading’s future in the league is no longer in their hands. The Royals need West Ham to get all three points away at Leicester on Sunday in order to keep any chance of survival alive – and even then, they would still need a miracle to beat Emma Hayes’ Chelsea on the final day. As for Spurs, they are now mathematically safe from relegation – and will live to fight out another top-flight campaign next season.