Two goals from Jessica Brooker of Reading and Jade Mayne of Canterbury earned their teams a share of the spoils in a hugely entertaining encounter at Sonning Lane.
With Canterbury in good form going into this match and with Reading welcoming back Samantha Quek and Olympic Bronze Medallist Emily Maguire it was set up to be a classic, and didn’t disappoint.
Reading drew first blood in the ninth minute as Susie Gilbert’s quickly taken free hit and strong run created a chance which Jessica Brooker took with a minimum of fuss to make the score 1-0.
Brooker went close moments later when she collected a turnover in the Canterbury D and hit a low shot wide of the near post.
Canterbury seemed content to soak up Reading’s pressure and hit their hosts on the break. Their first effort of note came from Jade Mayne who worked some space on the edge of the D and fired just over the top. Mayne did not have to wait long for her goal; however as on 14 minutes she cleverly deflected a goalbound shot from Lucy Hyams into the roof of the net giving Grace Lawes no chance.
The game was end to end with the excellent Susannah Townsend driving Canterbury forward from midfield and Susie Gilbert matching her international team mate in an absorbing duel which would have impressed the watching GB coach Danny Kerry.
On 19 minutes Sarah Kerly put the visitors ahead with a good finish in the D after some fine approach work from Nikki Triggs. Immediately afterwards, Brooker again found space in the D, but her reverse stick shot trickled agonizingly wide with the goalkeeper beaten.
Having gone close to equalising, Reading found themselves 3-1 down as a superb run down the left from Eliza Brett set up Mayne for her second.
Three minutes later Gilbert showed her class once more, driving into the D and with players all around her, calmly slotting it under the goalkeeper for 3-2. With the crowd looking towards half time, Reading drew level. It was a wonderful run along the back line from Samantha Quek who then dinked the ball over the goalkeeper at the near post for a fine individual goal.
The game settled into the same pattern as soon as the second half began. Eliza Brett and Wiz Hunt went close for either side, Hunt drawing a good save from the goalkeeper. Canterbury’s pace on the break was a constant threat with Brett, Hyams and Townsend causing Reading’s defence all sorts of problems.
Canterbury re-established their lead with a penalty corner goal from Triggs in the 45th minute before Lawes did well to keep out Townsend after the Canterbury captain robbed her opposite number, Emma Thomas. Thomas had her say however, with a superb drag flick in the 53rd minute to tie the scores up once again.
Brooker was unlucky not to put her side ahead, the Reading No4 showed superb energy as she outpaced two defenders, carrying the ball from half way, only to see her shot go just wide of the post.
With nine minutes left, a Reading attack broke down on half way. The ball was played into Lucy Hyams on the right hand side of the D, Hyams hit a fierce shot inside the near post and into the net which Lawes might feel she could have done better with.
As if the crowd hadn’t seen enough goals Liana Smith linked up brilliantly with Wiz Hunt on the left hand side. Hunt found Brooker who cut in and drifted past the goalkeeper with ease before finishing well for her second and Reading’s fifth.
The game ended level, which on balance, no one could argue wasn’t a fair result. Both sides had played their part in an end-to-end contest which could easily have finished off ten apiece. Jade Mayne and Susannah Townsend as well as the evergreen Melanie Clewlow put in superb performances for a very exciting Canterbury side. Susie Gilbert and Jessica Brooker both caught the eye for the home side as they proved to be a constant menace to the visitors’ defence.
The result moves Canterbury to the top of the table with eleven points, whilst Reading are down in seventh.