READING FC WOMEN’s unbeaten start to life in the Women’s Championship came to an end with a heavy home defeat to Southampton.
The Saints proved far too strong for Reading with first-half goals from Molly Pike and Katie Wilkinson before Atlanta Primus and Jemma Purfield added to the score in the second-half.
The Royals are still waiting for their first win of the campaign after their run of three consecutive draws was stopped.
Reading were still searching for their first win of the season after they opened their campaign with three consecutive draws.
Liam Gilbert named an unchanged team from the side that earned a last gasp draw at London City Lionesses last weekend.
After a relatively slow start, Southampton had the first big chance of the match when Pike got in behind the defence and spotted Emily Orman off her line, but missed the target with her shot.
Pike’s willingness to run in behind caused Reading serious problems throughout the half and paid dividends for the Saints in the 10th minute when she broke behind the backline before her scuffed shot found its way into the bottom corner to give the visitors the lead.
Defensive issues plagued Reading again but Easther Mayi Kith recovered well this time to prevent Pike from breaking into the box again.
Reading had their first strike at goal when some excellent work from Bethan Roberts found Josie Longhurst in front of goal, who had her shot stopped at the near post by Kayla Rendell.
Deanna Cooper then saw Rendell off her line and tried to catch her out with an audacious effort from 40 yards that was parried behind by the keeper.
Pike looked to punish Reading again with a move that was almost a carbon copy of the open, but this time Orman saved her skewed shot.
Just moments later, Pike’s pace proved too much for Reading to handle as she burst into the box and beat Orman to the ball before she was taken down by the keeper, leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty.
Katie Wilkinson stepped up to the spot for the Saints and slammed the ball into the top left hand corner to double their advantage.
Gilbert made a double switch to start the second-half as Lulu Jarvis and Caitlin Smith both came on to make their debuts in place of Cooper and Mayi Kith.
After a flat opening 15 minutes after the restart, Gilbert made more changes as Charlie Wellings and Freya Gregory replaced Longhurst and Rachel Dugdale.
Reading’s best move of the half came when Gregory threaded a ball for Wellings to chase in the box, but Paige Peake got across with a perfectly timed sliding tackle to halt the danger.
The Saints killed off the game in the 72nd with a third goal of the afternoon as a flowing forward move was finished off by Atlanta Primus as her shot took a cruel deflection to wrong foot Orman and trickled over the line.
Southampton added more gloss to the scoreline when Purfield nodded in on the rebound after the Saints had struck the crossbar.
The hosts clawed back a consolation goal in stoppage time as Estcourt volleyed in to reduce the deficit.
Reading face a two-week break before their next fixture when they travel to face Durham on Sunday, October 1.
Reading: Orman, Dugdale, Cooper, Hendrix, Mayi Kith, Houssein, Estcourt, Longhurst, Woodham, Roberts, Wade
Subs: Kite, Smith, Wellings, Meadows Tuson, Gregory, Elwood, Jarvis, Cox
Southampton: Rendell, Collet, Mott, Peake, Purfield, Kendall, Rafferty, Morris, Pike, Primus, Wilkinson
Subs: Howard, Lloyd-Smith, Wynne, Pharoah, Thompson, Kraft, Milne
Goals: Pike 10’, Wilkinson 27’ (pen), Primus 72’, Purfield 82’, Estcourt 90+3’