ROY­ALS HOLD THEIR NERVE TO CLINCH CROWN

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Sheri­dan Robins

READ­ING were crowned cham­pi­ons of WSL 2 on Sun­day in what was a nervy fi­nal day for the Roy­als as they sur­vived a late fightback to beat As­ton Villa 3-2. Ti­tle ri­vals Don­caster dom­i­nated

Millwall 4-0 and had their hands on the ti­tle for just six min­utes as they took the lead just be­fore the break, with So­phie Barker mus­ter­ing up an inch-per­fect cross for Bethany England.

But with a seven-goal cush­ion over Don­caster at the top, Read­ing took the lead them­selves be­fore half-time and af­ter 80 min­utes looked to be cruis­ing to the ti­tle.

Har­riet Scott’s shot eluded Villa keeper Caitlin Leach be­fore Emma Fol­lis set up He­len Ward af­ter the hour for the eas­i­est of fin­ishes. Fol­lis was at it again in the later stages and when her shot fell to Bianca Bragg, she made no mis­take in slot­ting home af­ter 80 min­utes.

Mean­while, at Don­caster, Sue Smith con­tin­ued her fine form and struck af­ter 68 min­utes. And she added to her tally just seven min­utes later as she chipped goal­keeper Sarah Quantrill.

Donny’s goal flurry con­tin­ued and Smith was again in­volved. Her cross at the far post was met by sub­sti­tute Hope Knight who coolly slot­ted home, but it would still not be enough.

It looked like all was not de­cided af­ter all as Villa inched to­wards the verge of an un­likely come­back at Sut­ton Cold­field, as two late goals in the last two min­utes from the hosts sent Royal hearts flut­ter­ing.

Ali­cia Robin­son headed home from a cor­ner, be­fore Tash Bap­tiste en­sured a tense fin­ish, but Read­ing held strong and clinched the ti­tle on goal dif­fer­ence.

Ever­ton se­cured third place with a thrilling 5-3 vic­tory over Ox­ford United.

It was goals ga­lore at the Se­lect Se­cu­rity Sta­dium as Lind­say John­son made her last ap­pear­ance for the Tof­fees af­ter an­nounc­ing her retirement.

Kather­ine Nut­man set the tone for this tie as her pow­er­ful shot bob­bled in to the net past Ever­ton keeper Kirstie Lev­ell af­ter just four min­utes.

But Si­mone Mag­ill lev­elled the score af­ter ten min­utes as she turned in Dan Turner’s cross, and Chaney BoyeHlorkah turned the match on its head just a minute be­fore the break.

Ox­ford hit back in the sec­ond half as Kayleigh Hines put away the lev­eller from a cor­ner af­ter 54 min­utes.

And Kelly Jones then put the hosts back in front be­fore Hines headed in an­other cor­ner to level it at 3-3.

It was al­most writ­ten in the stars that John­son, who has been at the club for 12 years, would net the de­ci­sive goal. She latched on to a loose ball and made no mis­take from 12 yards, be­fore Jess King added a fifth in stop­page time.

Corinne Yorston net­ted a last minute penalty to give

Yeovil vic­tory over Durham as they fin­ished fourth in the WSL 2, while Wat­ford ladies played out a goal­less draw with Lon­don Bees in John Salomon’s last match in charge of the Hor­nets.

CHAM­PI­ONS: Read­ing’s He­len Ward, cen­tre, cel­e­brates her goal dur­ing the fi­nal game of the sea­son at As­ton Villa

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