Tottenham Hotspur Women got back on track with a solid 2-1 win against Reading in the Conti Cup. Spurs showed enough creativity and quick thinking in attack to break down Reading’s defense in front of Reading’s record breaking home crowd.
Rehanne Skinner stuck with a back four of Amy Turner, Shelina Zadorsky, Molly Bartrip, and Asmita Ale in front of Becky Spencer in goal. Ash Neville pushed up to midfield ahead of Amy Turner, along with Eveliina Summanen, Cho So-Hyun and Angharad James in midfield, and Celin Bizet and Nikola Karczewska up top. Cho So-Hyun was often the farthest midfielder forward, but all three midfielders cycled through that spot at various times.
Spurs started the game looking like the organized, vicious pressing side of last season. Reading were unable to play out of their third, and after only seven minutes Ash Neville opened the scoring with a glorious goal—Eveliina quickly took a clever free kick that put Ash through in the box. She cut back smoothly to evade a defender, and smashed home with her weak foot straight into the side netting
Spurs strong pressing and imaginative attacking play continued throughout the half, though Reading seemed to find their feet and string together enough passes to call Becky Spencer into action. It was Becky’s fine distribution on those occasions that saw Spurs’ second goal. She found Ash Neville on the run, who played Cho So-Hyun in centrally. Cho’s initial shot was saved, but Nikola Karczewska was waiting and watching, and she pounced on the rebound to smash it home. It was a true poached goal, the kind we absolutely love to see from our striker.
Neither Spurs nor Reading made any changes for the second half. Spurs’ bright attacking play continued, though it did not result in a third goal. For their part, Reading produced a few scary moments on free kicks, and a counterattack or two. Kyah Simon and Drew Spence replaced Amy Turner and Angharad James at around the 60 minute mark, and slotted in well to Spurs’ pressing and quick attacking combinations. The closing stages of the half were marred by an awful-looking injury to Kyah Simon, and a late (and questionable) penalty after Emma Harries evaded Ash Neville and Molly Bartrip appeared to pull her back in the box. Natasha Dowie converted the penalty, and the game ended 2-1.
That 2-1 scoreline doesn’t flatter what was quite a comfortable performance. Rehanne Skinner’s choice to move Ash Neville back to the right side seemed to solve some of our ball progression issues. Using her ahead of Amy Turner (who is still not really a natural right back) provided Amy with support in both attack and defense, and made it more comfortable for them to combine with each other and with midfield players. Summanen, Cho, James and Spence (when she entered) all had strong performances that allowed Spurs to progress the ball through the center. Cho, Neville, Karczewska and Bizet also provided bright runs behind Reading’s defense, which helped us find more options building through midfield and over the top.
The injury to Kyah was a real shame. We already have an incredibly thin bench—when the squad was first announced it looked like we only had three outfield players on the bench. Ellie Brazil’s late inclusion could have reflected a mistake by the social media team, or it could’ve been a reflection that she’s carrying a knock and was only last-minute fit for the bench. With Kyah and Rosella out, and nearly no defensive depth, it was heartening to see other players stepping up.
We can only speculate as to why, but Eveliina looked like the Eveliina I remembered from her strong start last year—a pressing monster, well positioned and alert to create turnovers, calm and smart on the ball, physical and willing to run all over the pitch. This was the first game where I got a real sense of what Cho So-Hyun does as a player. She also put in a physical pressing performance, full of cleverness, tricky flicks and brave passing. Their improved performance and Spurs’ dominating presence in midfield really set the tone for the game. Elsewhere, Asmita Ale and Ash Neville continued their good form, and Celin Bizet looked dangerous in attack and defense on the left wing.
All in all, it was a decent response from such a bad game against Arsenal. Spurs will look to continue their form after international break, where we can only hope our thin squad doesn’t thin out even more. On the other side of it all, we face Liverpool on October 16th at Brisbane Road.