READING suffered late heartache as their winless run extends to four matches, leaving them adrift of the WSL’s top four.
The Royals looked to have rescued a draw at fourth-placed Birmingham when Remi Allen struck with two minutes to play to cancel out Kerys Harrop’s opener.
However, the hosts regrouped to get themselves back in front at the death via substitute Meaghan Sargeant to take maximum points with a 2-1 win to pull seven points clear of fifth-placed Reading.
“I thought in the first 45 minutes we were on top,” said boss Kelly Chambers.
“But we needed to make sure we capitalised on that and we didn’t.
“From 60 minutes onwards the game turned into a scrap and it’s something that, if Birmingham need to, they can do that very well.
“We know they like to play a lot of short passes so we needed to make sure we were right on the press.
“We did that perfectly. The frustrating thing is that we got that all right but we haven’t come out with a result.”
In their first game since December 12, Reading made four changes from their cup draw against Liverpool with Grace Moloney and Maz Pacheco returning as well as fit-again duo Jade Moore and Lauren Bruton. New loan signing Jade Bailey was named among the substitutes.
And the Royals dominated most of the first half, without carving out many clear cut chances to test young goalkeeper Hannah Hampton.
Birmingham improved after the restart and almost got in front in the 47th minute but a combination of Grace Moloney and Jo Potter denied former Royal Emma Follis’ cross being turned in.
Moloney then made a fingertip stop from Charlie Wellings’ effort before Lucy Quinn then headed off target.
But the deadlock was broken on 72 minutes when Follis crossed for Harrop to power a header into the top corner.
However, Reading fought their way back into the game following the introduction of Gemma Davison off the bench. She quickly teed up Allen to prod home, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.
But the scores were levelled when Allen finished from close range, latching onto Rachel Furness’ header.
Just when it looked as though the spoils would be shared, Birmingham responded to complete the league double over Reading when Sargeant looped a header over Moloney.
“I thought we played well,” said Allen.
“We managed the game in the first half especially and weathered the storm second half and obviously managed to get ourselves back in the game.
“But we didn’t see it out and it’s hugely disappointing for us.
“I thought it was a good game. Obviously we need to take our chances.
“But it was a great game for women’s football.”
Reading are due back in action on Wednesday night at Chelsea in the Conti Cup quarter-finals (7.30pm).
Meanwhile, the FA Cup fourth round draw has paired Reading with fourth tier side Keynsham Town.
The game will take place at Adams Park on the weekend of February 2/3.
READING: Moloney, Pacheco, Pearce (c) (Bailey 84), Potter, Harding, Furness, Allen, Moore (Bartrip 66), F. Williams, Bruton (Davison 75), Chaplen.
Subs not used: Kite, Jane, Woodham, Estcourt.
Goal: Allen (88)
Yellow cards: Moore (23), Furness (30), Harding (53), Allen (82)
BIRMINGHAM: Hampton, Scott, Harrop (c), Mannion, P. Williams (Sargeant 65), Arthur, Ladd, Staniforth, Follis (Mayling 78), Wellings, Quinn.
Subs not used: Ewers, Hayles, Scofield.
Goals: Harrop (72), Sargeant (89)
Yellow cards: Harrop (32), Williams (56)
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis