READING'S hopes of reaching the Investec Women's League's play-offs were dealt a severe blow by one of their former players on Sunday.
Susannah Townsend, who spent a season with the Blues before returning to Canterbury last year, scored a late winner at Sonning Lane. The international midfielder enjoyed an outstanding game
in front of Danny Kerry, the England and Great Britain manager.
With defences largely in control, the match produced very few scoring chances and appeared to be heading for a goalless draw.
But with less than two minutes remaining Townsend denied Reading the point they deserved. Her strong surge down was only stopped by a hard challenge by Kate Richardson-Walsh to earn a penalty corner.
Townsend took it herself and then raced into the middle, where she stopped
Mel Clewlow's effort which appeared to be going wide and turned the ball over the line from close range. It was cruel luck for Reading, who played well enough to earn a draw.
They enjoyed plenty of possession but, like so many times this season, they fell short in the Canterbury circle and rarely looked like scoring.
Their best effort came from defender Ellie Barnes in the second half, but her well-struck shot was comfortably dealt with by the
Coach Merijn van Willigen said: "It was disappointing to lose, as we competed well, we looked solid and I thought we were at least equal to them, although we didn't ask too many questions at the top end. With two minutes to go perhaps we should have settled for a draw. But the girls wanted to win and pushed one more player forward and we paid for it."
Following this defeat, Reading slipped to sixth in the table,
four points behind fourth-placed Holcombe with just three matches remaining.
It means their visit to Kent side Holcombe this Saturday (6pm) now becomes a win-or-bust encounter.
Captain Emma Thomas is hoping to return, having missed the Canterbury match due to the calf injury she sustained in the European Indoor Cup the previous weekend.
Charlotte Daly was on the bench for Reading on Sunday, having earlier in the day helped the under-18 side to defeat Teddington 4-1 in the quarter-finals of England Hockey's Under-18 Plate competition.
They will play Alderley Edge in the semi-finals being played at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London on March 28.
The winners will meet Plymouth or Harleston Magpies in the final on the same day.