Albion Women were outclassed away at title-chasing Reading on Sunday, as Francesca Kirby’s hat-trick and a Rosanna Lane header saw the Royals earn a comfortable victory.
The Seagulls began the match with half-chances as Cherelle Khassal and Sophie Perry tested keeper Grace Moloney early on, but Kirby soon sent the home side on their way to three points.
The forward made a driving run towards the edge of the area, breaking the deadlock in spectacular fashion in the 13th minute, as her looping shot sailed over Lucy Mangan and into the net.
Albion then had a good opportunity to equalise, when Lily Agg narrowly failed to connect with Kirsty Barton’s corner before the danger was eventually cleared.
Moments later, Mangan was at full stretch to prevent Alice Palmer’s header from doubling the Royals’ advantage with a good save, but it was Kirby who continued to be their main threat.
Albion’s defence struggled to cope with her blistering pace on the ball, and she doubled Reading’s advantage on the brink of half-time when her long range shot went low and hard past Mangan.
The Seagulls then made the worst possible start to the second-half, as Lane headed in Charlotte Chard’s corner within seconds of the whistle to effectively end any slim hopes of an Albion comeback.
Five minutes later, Kirby completed her hat-trick and scored Reading’s final goal with another low drive past Mangan.
The American then made a fine save to stop Rebecca Jane from scoring a fifth goal, after a lovely move involving Kirby and Lois Roche, before producing another stop to deny Lane’s long-range shot.
Jay Lovett’s side then improved slightly as the game went on and began to create a few more opportunities in the final 20 minutes; Khassal saw her shot go over the bar before Perry forced another fine save by Moloney.
But it was certainly a day to forget for Albion, as the side struggled to find any rhythm to their usual free-flowing style of play and frustrations showed on the pitch, as both Barton and Agg picked up yellow cards.
It was the Seagulls’ heaviest defeat of the season so far and a fair result according to manager Lovett, who admitted the Royals were the better team on the day.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “For the first time this season, we were beaten by the better side; they outplayed us and dived for every challenge. Credit to them, we weren’t at the races today, but we live and learn and we’ll crack on for the next game.”
Albion: (4-3-3) Mangan; Cheshire (Carter 59), Ryan, James (Owen 70), Perry; Barton, Agg, Gurr; Khassal, Stenning, Somes (Boswell 45).