Two goals from substitute Emma Harries helped Reading come from 2-0 down to claim a point against fellow Women’s Super League strugglers Brighton on Sunday afternoon.
Veatriki Sarri struck twice early on with close range efforts as the Seagulls took advantage of some poor Royals defending.
Harries pulled one back just moments after her introduction from the bench and her header in the 60th minute ensured the points were shared at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
A recent tough run involving WSL losses to Chelsea and Manchester City has dragged Brighton further into the relegation scrap, though a recent FA Cup win over Birmingham raised spirits before the trip to Berkshire. Reading came into the fixture on a run of four losses in five league games and a cup exit to Chelsea.
Brighton took an eighth-minute lead with a well constructed opener. The visitors won the ball high up the pitch as Poppy Pattinson’s cross was met by Katie Robinson, who nodded back to Sarri to find the top corner from close range.
That advantage was doubled only five minutes later, with Sarri getting her second. The danger again came from a wide cross as Megan Connolly found Guro Bergsvand, whose header allowed Sarri to nip in and prod past Grace Moloney for 2-0.
Sweden international Emma Kullberg nearly made it three, cutting onto her left foot and placing her shot just wide of the bottom corner. Lydia Williams then had to be alert to beat away a Faye Bryson drive as Reading responded to their slow start in positive fashion. They nearly pulled one back through some pinball action from a corner but the ball was eventually cleared.
But even with Reading improving, Brighton had opportunities to put the game to bed in the first half.
Sarri, on a hat-trick, had an effort kept out by Moloney before Lee Geum-min’s follow-up was blocked. Speedster Robinson was the set away down the right but fired straight at Moloney when aiming for the far corner.
Missed opportunities from the Seagulls allowed Reading to cut the defici at the start of the second half. Substitute Harries was allowed to stroll onto Emma Mukandi’s long pass from the back and finish easily past Williams with her first touches.
First-half Brighton substitute Danielle Carter couldn’t force in Robinson’s cross before Harries grabbed her second to level the scores.
20-year-old forward Harries, who hadn’t scored in the WSL this season prior to Sunday, got on the end of Lily Woodham’s cross and flicked it into the far corner to make it 2-2 heading into the final 30 minutes.
Brighton, having thrown away a two-goal lead, still showed their attacking teeth and almost took the lead when Robinson rounded Moloney but the 20-year-old struck the post when settled. Sub Libby Bance also could have won it late on, but she lifted her effort over the top.
Reading and Brighton are tenth and 11th in the WSL and both climb a point away from bottom placed Leicester, who were thrashed by Aston Villa.
GK: Grace Moloney – 6/10 – Was left out to dry by Reading’s early defending but came up with some important saves before the comeback.
CB: Easther Mayi Kith – 6/10 – Stepped up well, made some important recovery challenges and was a little more convincing in defence that her colleagues.
CB: Gemma Evans – 4/10 – Was part of some statuesque defending which saw Brighton race ahead early on.
CB: Emma Mukandi – 6/10 – Similarly culpable to Evans at the back but grabbed an assist for Harries.
RWB: Faye Bryson – 6/10 – Lost Sarri as the Greek forward drifted into the box twice to score.
CM: Sanne Troelsgaard – 7/10 – Some nice skills created a shooting opportunity but she hit the side-netting. Became more influential in the second half, playing high up the pitch. Could have scored with a header.
CM: Jade Moore – 6/10 – Played some good long balls forward and was never far away from the midfield battle.
LWB: Lily Woodham – 6/10 – Bad back-pass nearly gifted Brighton a third. Awesome cross from the left allowed Harries to equalise.
RW: Amalie Eikeland – 6/10 – Linked nicely with Wellings on occasion.
ST: Rachel Rowe – 7/10 – Came alive at the second half, playing some nice passes to get Reading moving.
LW: Charlie Wellings – 6/10 – Not many scoring opportunities but did offer some nice touches and passes in Reading’s build-up play.
Emma Harries (46′ for Evans) – 9/10 – Latched onto Mukandi’s long ball and finished with composure. Equalised from Woodham’s cross with a brilliant header.
Justine Vanhaevermaet (82′ for Troelsgaard) – 6/10
Brooke Hendrix (90′ for Wellings) – N/A
Kelly Chambers – 5/10 – Poor start leaves a ‘what could have been’ feeling to this draw. Defensive organisation has to improve if Reading are to pull away from the danger zone.
GK: Lydia Williams – 6/10 – Alert to make some important saves but was left without much chance for either of Harries’ strikes.
RB: Jorja Fox – 6/10 – Provided good support for Robinson down the right.
CB: Megan Connolly – 5/10 – Caught asleep at the back when Reading’ Harries pulled one back.
CB: Guro Bergsvand – 7/10 – Aware header set up Sarri’s second. Had to come off just before the half-hour mark with an injury.
LB: Poppy Pattinson – 7/10 – Attacking venture helped put Brighton in a position of strength early on.
RM: Katie Robinson – 8/10 – Her pace was not matched by any Reading player and was a threat all afternoon. Good awareness to set up Sarri’s first.
CM: Zoe Morse – 5/10 – Got stuck under the ball when Harries rose highest to nod in Reading’s second.
CM: Julia Zigiotti Olme – 5/10 – Pretty quiet in midfield, never really asserting herself.
CM: Emma Kullberg – 7/10 – Had to do some mopping up in defence and curled just wide when she could have put Brighton 3-0 up.
LM: Veatriki Sarri – 9/10 – Poacher’s instincts gave Brighton a two-goal lead in the opening 15 minutes. Influence died off towards her substitution.
ST: Lee Geum-min – 7/10 – Showed a creative spark around the area but shooting opportunities were a bit more limited than her teammates’.
Danielle Carter (29′ for Bergsvand) – 4/10 – Yellow carded anbd shots lacked power.
Libby Bance (68′ for Sarri) – 5/10 – Scooped a good chance just over the top late on.
Amy Merricks – 6/10 – Clinical edge early on looked to have Brighton on their way to victory, but a second-half collapse denied the visitors what would have been a vital victory.