Everton Ladies interim head coach Jen Herst insisted “the scoreline did not reflect the performance” after they lost 2-1 at Reading.
Hannah Cain opened her account for the club with a fine finish after 14 minutes but former Toffee Brooke Chaplen struck in either half to secure the points for the Royals.
But it could have been a much different story had Cain not been denied by a strong save from home goalkeeper Grace Maloney, while Inessa Kaagman was denied a goal by the linesman’s flag, with replays suggesting it was tighter than first thought.
Reading manager Kelly Chambers described the Blue Girls as “a fighting team with good spirit who are hard to break down” in her post-match media duties and her opposite number Herst was full of praise for her players.
“I would think that is an accurate description and we were working in the week to try and be hard to break down,” she said.
“We wanted to be relentless with our defending both individually and collectively. If we could do that, hopefully we could take our reward when it came. Unfortunately that didn’t prove to be the case.
“It was a really good performance. It was brave, we looked to get on the ball and enjoy having possession.
“I was really pleased with the team from that point of view. The girls put in their all and for me the scoreline does not reflect our performance.”
Despite the result, Herst saw enough to keep the faith that Everton’s fortunes will begin to turn.
Georgia Brougham and Meg Finnigan were in no mood to let the Royals pick out the pockets of space in which they usually thrive, while Angharad James and Dominique Bruinenberg worked tirelessly in midfield.
Up front, Cain’s pace troubled Reading’s back line, with Chloe Kelly and Simone Magill adding guile and creativity in behind her.
“We showed a lot of belief that we could come here and get a result,” added Herst.
“It’s another step in the right direction and we know we are closing in on getting the three points and scorelines that reflect how much work we are putting in.
“I was really pleased for Hannah as well. She worked tremendously well while she was on the pitch. I was delighted to see her get her first goal for the club.”