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An Izzy Christiansen header and a Toni Duggan stunner proved enough for the victory at Adams Park, which had looked comfortable until Lauren Bruton despatched an 89th minute penalty for the hosts.
The triumph – the Blues’ fourth in succession – extended the table toppers’ incredible unbeaten run in the league and showcased both the attacking and defensive capabilities of Nick Cushing’s side.
With three games in a week, the City boss hinted he would make changes for the trip to Wycombe. An ankle injury to Megan Campbell in training on the day of the game meant Jennifer Beattie had to come in at centre-back, while Tessel Middag replaced Keira Walsh in defensive midfield.
As per their previous three victories, the Blues started brightly, without creating any real chances.
The hosts were responsible for the first opportunity, as Rachel Rowe fired goalward but Demi Stokes made an excellent block.
Heeding the warning, City pressed on. Jennifer Beattie tried her luck from distance but skewed wide, and Steph Houghton saw a header cleared off the line.
Nikita Parris also volleyed over the bar after controlling well, and Kirsty McGee made an excellent last-ditch tackle to deny Christiansen from close range.
Jane Ross was then thwarted twice by Mary Earps before the visitors broke the deadlock on 38 minutes.
A fine team move unleashed Parris down the wing and the forward executed the perfect delivery for Christiansen to head home on her 50th City appearances.
A crucial goal in the title race, it was no more than the away side deserved.
It’s often said teams are at their most vulnerable when they’ve just scored and Reading were almost level within a minute. Jade Boyo-Sayo capitalised on a mistake by Beattie to get a shot away, but Bardsley saved.
In the last action of the half, Beattie headed just wide and the visitors took a slender lead into the dressing room.
The second half continued where the first had left of, with City dominating.
Georgia Stanway almost doubled the advantage, drilling a low effort goalward but she was denied her fifth goal in three games as the ball came back off the post.
At the other end, Bardsley was called into action to first save a Kayleigh Hines header and then race out to clear as Emma Follis looked to be through on goal.
Earps remained the busier of the two goalkeepers though and did well to prevent Stanway and Parris from finding the net, whilst Ross shot just wide.
Substitute Duggan took just seven minutes to make an impact, smashing home a thunderous first-time strike from the edge of the area to hand the away side a more comfortable advantage.
Reading set up a nervy finish as Bruton converted from the spot after Parris had tripped Follis – but there would be no more chances and City emerged victorious.
Next up for the Blues is Sunday’s Continental Cup quarter-final at the Academy Stadium…
MCWFC travel to Adams Park to meet Reading on Wednesday night where they will be hoping to make it four wins on the bounce to take a seven point lead at the summit.
Two of Nick Cushing’s sides’ games have been selected for live coverage on the channel, as the race for the FA WSL crown reaches its climax.