A CLINICAL performance from Reading FC Women delivered all three points with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland Ladies, writes Jim Tatum.

The hard-fought victory at Mariners Park on Sunday maintained third place for Royals in the Women's Super League 1 table.

Reading were looking to build on their 3-0 win over Everton last week when they returned to winning ways following defeat at Arsenal Ladies before that.

They achieved this in comfortable fashion with another solid team display and some fine finishing from Fara Williams and Rachel Furness who scored within two minutes of each other.

Both sides struggled to get going, with very few chances in the first half hour.

The hosts did threaten in the 25th minute, but Keira Ramshaw lashed over the top from a tight angle after Reading had been caught in possession in midfield.

But Williams broke the deadlock six minutes before the break when she waltzed through unchallenged before slotting past Sunderland keeper Rachel Laws.

And before Sunderland could recover, ex-Black Cats player Furness also netted two minutes later with a fine strike from outside the penalty area as Reading took control.

The home side improved in the second half – Victoria Williams drilling a shot wide of the far post in the 53rd minute.

But Reading looked confident of adding a third, with a matter of inches denying Remi Allen as she scuffed an effort past the far post.

Despite keeper Mary Earps receiving a bizarre 75th-minute red card for handling the ball well outside her area, Kelly Chambers' visitors held on to claim a deserved victory.

Furness admitted: “I don’t think it was one of the best games in front of goal, but we did take two chances and had a clean-sheet which we are pleased about.

"I didn’t celebrate my goal because I was at Sunderland for nearly 12 years and it is a club I hold dear to my heart. I was happy to get the goal to help Reading, but I have got a lot of respect for Sunderland, so it was respectful not to celebrate.

“As a team we have got very high standards in terms of how we play and we didn’t play our best football.

“Yes, we came away with three points but we will look to be better in the next game and be more clinical and play better football.”

Despite a below par performance, the victory puts Royals one point behind Manchester City Women in second place and the final European qualifying place.

City have three games in hand on the Royals, whilst Arsenal Women also have a game in hand on them. The Gunners sit in fourth place, below Reading on goal difference.

Royals won’t mind this though as they continue to apply the pressure to their rivals, having only lost one of their last eight matches in the league.

Next up for Royals is a crucial clash against Liverpool Ladies at Madejski Stadium on Saturday, May 12 (2pm ko).

The Reds are also vying for third place, just three points behind Reading with a game in hand.

“At the start of the season with the and squad we have got, we were aiming for a top four finish,” added Furness.

“We will concentrate on ourselves but if results go our way then third or fourth is possible. If we win our next couple of games then we can finish fourth and that is the aim.

“We have got a style of play in terms of how we play and set-up. We are respectful of Liverpool, we know they are a good team, but if we play well on the day then we know we can beat the best.”

Sunderland: Laws, Williams, Stewart, Sharp, Sjoman, Bruinenberg, Lipka, Wyne, Staniforth, Pitman (Galloway 59), Ramshaw. Subs not used: Preuss, Joice, Koren, Lambert, Mullen, Griffiths.

Reading: Earps, Rowe, Pearce, Potter, Harding (Scott 89), Allen, Furness, Moore, Williams, Chaplen (Maloney 79), Bruton. Subs not used: Jane, Linnett, Fletcher, Green. Booked: Rowe 60, Bruton 85, Williams 90. Red Card: Earps 75.

Referee: Adam Herczeg.