Reading 3 Bristol City 3
Fara Williams, England’s record appearance-holder, was forced to give up centre stage to a potential Lioness of the future as Bristol City earned a morale-boosting draw in a six-goal thriller.
England under-19 international Ebony Salmon underlined her burgeoning potential by scoring one goal and making another as City fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to earn a deserved point.
Reading, who began the day six points adrift of the top three, scored twice in 90 seconds early in the first half. Remi Allen set the tone for a pulsating afternoon in the 17th minute, beating the City offside trap before finishing calmly from the edge of the penalty area.
Brooke Chaplen impressively rounded visiting goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley to double Reading’s lead.
City gave themselves a lifeline eight minutes before half-time courtesy of Charlie Wellings’s neatly-taken finish.
The second half began in the same vein as the first ended in front of an enthralled crowd of 1,420.
Reading, inspired by the presence of the 172-times capped Williams in their midfield, restored the two-goal advantage within a minute of the restart as former City midfielder Angharad James headed in a corner.
City again reduced the arrears just two minutes later as Salmon showed a blistering turn of pace before releasing substitute Yana Daniels, who finished unerringly.
It was fitting the young pretender Salmon would have the final word with seven minutes remaining, racing on to Carla Humphrey’s exquisite through-ball before rounding home goalkeeper Grace Moloney and slotting home from an acute angle.
Tanya Oxtoby, the City manager, was fulsome in her praise of Salmon. “She is an absolute enigma at times,” she said. “She will pop up here and there and that is the beauty of playing on the counter with someone like Ebony up front.
“She is hard to mark, very quick and does not know what she is going to do half the time so that makes it difficult for defenders” City are still waiting for their first league victory of the season but Salmon said: “We have got a lot of positives to take from that performance going into a tough run of games. We can really push on.”
Reading (4-4-2): Moloney; Rowe, Howard, Leine, Pacheco; James (Farrow 84), Allen, Moore, Williams; Eikeland (Utland 90), Chaplen. Subs Bennink, Laws, Skeels, Reynolds, Cruickshank. Booked Howard.
Bristol City (4-2-3-1): Baggaley; Dykes, Brown, Allen, Evans; Harrison (Daniels 39), Humphrey; Wellings, Sargeant, Wilson (Chance 55); Salmon (Reilly 90). Subs Matthews, Cummings, Strippel, Robinson. Booked Brown. Referee Kirsty Dowle (Kent)..