Read­ing save the best ‘til last but Thomas’ win­ner is too lit­tle, too late

Slough 0

The Hockey Paper - - INVESTEC WOMEN'S PREMIER DIVISION - By Dave Wright

READ­ING bowed out of the Pre­mier Divi­sion on a win­ning note at Slough thanks to a first-half goal from their cap­tain, Emma Thomas.

It was their first In­vestec Pre­mier League win of the sea­son; in fact their first since beat­ing Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham in Fe­bru­ary of last year.

The match at Up­ton Court Park high­lighted why both th­ese Berk­shire sides have strug­gled this term, with nei­ther man­ag­ing to turn their op­por­tu­ni­ties into goals.

Third-bot­tom Slough failed to take ad­van­tage of nine penalty cor­ners and their sea­son’s goal tally of 15 is even two fewer than their rel­e­gated ri­vals.

“This is some­thing we cer­tainly need to im­prove on next sea­son,” ad­mit­ted Slough skip­per Kat McGonigle. “We were not able to score as many goals as we should have done.”

The same re­marks were echoed from the op­pos­ing camp.

Thomas’ goal was her fifth of the sea­son, mak­ing her Read­ing’s lead­ing scorer. Short­age of fire­power has cost them dear, while in de­fence they have not been helped by a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and per­haps ma­tu­rity, espe­cially when try­ing to re­lieve pres­sure on their goal and turn­ing de­fence into at­tack.

But in re­cent weeks the Blues have cer­tainly ben­e­fit­ted from hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced Amy Gib­son in goal, as she ex­cels in di­rect­ing oper­a­tions in­side her own cir­cle and is never short of a word or three. The Scot had an­other ex­cel­lent game on Satur­day.

But with Gib­son side­lined through in­jury for most of the sea­son, Mila Welch was be­tween the posts. Even at the ten­der age of 16, she is not short of tal­ent and it would be wrong to crit­i­cise her, but as yet she is un­able to match what Gib­son brings to the team.

Much the same could be said of sev­eral oth­ers in Mike Irv­ing’s squad, who was forced to in­clude teenagers to fill the void left by the de­par­ture of in­ter­na­tional stars Kate and He­len Richard­son-Walsh and Alex Dan­son, fol­lowed this year by Susie Gil­bert.

Yet, Read­ing can be en­cour­aged by their young­sters and they cer­tainly shap­ing as a team to look out for in the near fu­ture.

Thomas com­mented: “We im­proved dur­ing the sea­son and the se­cond half was far bet­ter than the first.

“I am sure there is more to come from this squad, but we do need to do some re­cruit­ing. The plan is to bounce straight back as soon we can.”

The match was the last for team man­ager Liz Spencer, who is plan­ning to re­turn to um­pir­ing in the South League.

She said: “It has been a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son on the whole, but we have never been a walkover. I think if you ask any team we’ve played, they would say they have not had an easy game against us.

“Our girls bat­tled hard ev­ery week and that's why I am proud of them. In many of the games we lost, we were only a goal be­hind. It was just a pity that we couldn’t score more goals our­selves.”

Like Con­fer­ence­bound Read­ing, Slough will also be look­ing to strengthen their squad for next sea­son, their se­cond since be­ing pro­moted back to the top-flight.

Three or four “qual­ity play­ers” have al­ready been linked with Pink and Blacks, and coach Kali Takher com­mented: “I hope our cur­rent play­ers will buy into what we are try­ing to achieve and work even harder and use the ex­pe­ri­ence from this year to benefit them next sea­son.”

He added: “I wasn't too sur­prised we lost to­day as we have a habit of los­ing our last game or two of the sea­son, but this is not go­ing to take the tar­nish off things. The aim of the sea­son was to sur­vive, and we did that, which was very im­por­tant to this club.

“Yes, we lost to­day, but we had done our hard work against Hol­combe and Can­ter­bury, get­ting the re­sults we needed to keep us safe. My team de­serves a lot of credit for that.”

Read­ing spent eight sea­sons in the Pre­mier Divi­sion, dur­ing which time they won all of the five games they played at Slough. So last Satur­day’s re­sult was per­haps not such a sur­prise af­ter all.

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