Women's Report: Saints 5-0 Reading

2023-24/Women's Team/Barclays Women's Championship/Reading (H)/A78I0938_m2xgl0

Southampton FC Women were dominant at home against Reading as they recorded their biggest ever win in the Barclays Women's Championship.

The stage was set at St. Mary's as Saints powered into a 3-0 lead at half-time thanks to a Katie Wilkinson brace and Ella Morris goal.

They continued the one-way traffic in the second half and a brace for Sophia Pharoah saw her side walk away triumphant with all three points.

Marieanne Spacey-Cale made just one change to her starting line-up after the Saints' narrow loss away at Sunderland, with Ella Morris stepping up in place of Alice Griffiths.

Ella Morris returned to the starting line-up. (Photos: Isabelle Field)

The opening minutes of the match saw Saints look comfortable in possession and had the first real chance of the game, sending a shot into the arms of Reading's goalkeeper.

The dominant display persisted as Spacey-Cale's side quickly saw another chance to open the scoreline, but Morris' shot landed to the left of the goalpost.

Saints continued to put pressure on the visitors, and some brilliant build-up play and use of the width of the pitch resulted in the opening goal in the 17th minute.

Wilkinson's header was beyond the reach of Emily Orman, following a smooth cross from Megan Collett on the right.

Ten minutes later, Morris found the back of the net to round off an impressive team move to double the scoring.

The 21-year-old's calm finish put the Saints in a favourable position after she raced forward and traded passes with Wilkinson, who cleverly backheeled it into her path inside the penalty area.

Morris then did well to keep possession in the final third on the right and sent the ball into the box for Primus; Saints' midfielder then served up a sublime cross for Wilkinson to head home once again, making it 3-0 to the Saints just after the half-hour mark.

Wilkinson is congratulated after scoring.

Spacey-Cale's side showed no signs of losing momentum and they looked relentlessly threatening as the half-time whistle approached.

With a confidence about them, Saints tried for a fourth in the final minute of added time when Purfield fired a powerful shot towards goal, but the strike was stopped by Orman.

The beginning of the second half was equally as promising for Saints, and it was only a matter of time before another big chance would come to fruition.

A cross from Molly Pike in the 54th minute eventually found Pharoah after the ball bounced around in the box, and the striker was quick to react to prod home a well-deserved fourth goal.

Wilkinson almost had her hat trick in the 63rd minute, with a long-range shot finding itself just over the crossbar.

However, her strong cross to Pharoah just five minutes later saw the Saints secure their fifth goal in style with a strike sent straight into the top right corner of goal.

Sophia Pharoah celebrates her brace.

Substitute Emma Thompson almost brought the Saints their sixth goal with a header in the 83rd minute. Spacey-Cale's side continued to pile on the pressure against Reading, as their successful afternoon drew to a close.

The fourth official indicated that there would be 7 minutes of additional time, and the home side looked eager to expand their winning margin.

With Southampton five goals to the better, the final whistle called time on a thoroughly entertaining afternoon at St. Mary's as Spacey-Cale's side move level on points with Crystal Palace and just one behind Sunderland in top spot.

Saints: Rendell, Collett (Wynne 81), Mott, Peake, Purfield, Primus (Griffiths 68), Kendall (c), Morris, Pharoah, Pike (Lloyd-Smith 68), Wilkinson (Thompson).

Subs not used: Haaland, Rafferty, Milne.

Goals: Wilkinson 17, 35, Morris 27, Pharoah 54, 68.

Reading: Orman, Dugdale, Stapleton, Houssein, Cooper (Smith 62), Perry (Longhurst 62), Wade (c), Flannery, Estcourt, Woolley (Wilson 87), Roberts (Jarvis 71).

Subs not used: Burns, Marashi.

Attendance: 2,731.