Kayleigh brace earns United a point against the Royals
Two goals from Kayleigh Hines gave Oxford United Women a hard-earned 2-2 draw at high-flying Reading. Hines' strikes twice put the U's in front, but a brace from Lauren Bruton ensured the points were shared.
United made two changes to the side which lost 2-0 at home to Aston Villa on Sunday, with Isi Meade coming in at left back in place of Chloe Bruce and Hanna Jaadla making her debut in place of Ella Franklin-Fraiture. Helen King, who missed the early stages of United's campaign while abroad, returned to the squad on the bench.
The visitors started brightly and spent the first ten minutes camped in the Reading half. Holly Pickett volleyed over from an early corner, but it proved to be just a warm-up for the opening goal. Reading keeper Grace Moloney punched away a floated ball across, but only as far as Pickett, who hooked it back into the danger area for Kayleigh Hines to bundle in.
The home side soon recovered from their sluggish start and they were gifted an equaliser when Lauren Bruton was felled just inside the penalty area. She duly stepped up to take the spot-kick, sending United goalkeeper Demi Lambourne the wrong way and restoring parity.
Neither side were able to carve out a clear opening for the remainder of a closely contested half. United's best chance came when Hines curled a free-kick over the bar from a dangerous position, while Lauren Allison stung the goalkeeper's hands with a long-range attempt on the break.
The home side enjoyed the majority of possession and territory, but found their attempts to press forward cut out by a solid U's backline. A dangerous through ball put Lauren Bruton in behind, but she was quickly closed down by Hines, who made a timely intervention. England striker Fran Kirby was given her first sniff of goal ten minutes before the break, when she got the wrong side of the United defence, but she scuffed her shot well wide of Lambourne's goal.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with both sides trading blows. Lauren Allison went close shortly after the restart when she latched onto a through ball, but she snatched at her shot under pressure and it drifted wide. The lively Bonnie Horwood caused the United defence some problems, seeing her effort smothered well by the keeper after she had blocked an Isi Meade clearance. She was denied again by a superb last-ditch tackle from Rosie Lane, who intervened just as the Reading attacker was about to pull the trigger after tipping the ball past Lambourne.
When United retook the lead 20 minutes from time it came against the run of play, following a spell of pressure from the hosts. Hines tried her luck from outside the area with an ambitious left-footed drive, which caught Moloney off-guard and nestled in the corner of the net.
The Reading response was immediate, with Bruton lobbing Lambourne to bag her second of the afternoon. The home side pressed forward in search of a winner, but found themselves frustrated by a dominant defensive display from the U's, who also threatened on the break. The breakthrough never came for either side and United were able to hold on for their first away point of the season.
United: Lambourne, Meade, Hines, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Stanley, Nutman, Allison (Franklin-Fraiture 79), Pickett (Low 90), Nichol, Jaadla (Bruce 87). Subs not used: Cox, Chivers, Pinker, King.
Report by Matt Bruce