Duggan (7 mins, 79 mins)
Reading FC Women 1
McGee (12 mins)
- Match reports
- 13 April 2014 16:08
- Posted by @baileymcfc
Given what was happening on Merseyside at virtually the same time, it perhaps wasn’t the best of moments for Manchester City Women to announce themselves on the national stage.
But despite major distractions elsewhere - and the insistence of the organisers that they play at the same time - there was no denying the statement of intent adroitly posted by skipper Stephanie Houghton and her team in this 2-1 FA Women’s Cup victory.
Two goals from Toni Duggan were enough to settle the nerves and the result, catapulting City into the last eight and providing copious evidence that the first priority of this debut season – to be competitive at all levels – will be comfortably fulfilled.
Reading will no doubt happily testify to the power, pace and precision in the embryonic Blues squad that has been prolific at one end of the pitch - and miserly at the other end - all pre-season.
The visitors were obdurate and well organised but there will be more difficult tests ahead than this for MCWFC, starting at champions Liverpool in Widnes this Thursday.
However, none of the WSL teams will head into this most anticipated of seasons with more momentum and confidence than City.
Any manager will tell anyone willing to listen that the pair of commodities listed in the previous paragraph are two of the most vital of ingredients in success. They are currently fairly oozing from a City squad only brought together three short months ago.
Of course it helps when you arguably have England’s best striker in Duggan spearheading the attack and feeding off the elegant touches of Jill Scott and the energy and determination of Betsy Hassett, Krystle Johnston and Isobel Christiansen.
It was Johnston that provided the eighth minute pass - that these old eyes mistook for a mishit shot - which was superbly anticipated by the predatory Duggan who steered home at the far post.
However, a busy and combative Reading team had not come to help celebrate the birth of a new force in the women’s game.
They were the Southern Division Champions last season, collecting the silverware and a place in the history books by an eight point margin over Millwall Lionesses and earning a place in Women’s Super League Two - a division below the Blues. In other words; they can play.
Livewire Fran Kirby topped the Royals’ scoring charts last season with a hugely impressive 31 goals, twice as many as any of her teammates, and she showed why she is so valuable to Reading five minutes after Duggan’s strike.
She split the defence with pace and know-how and then slipped the ball to Lauren Bruton who did the rest for the equaliser.
City were always the more composed and better footballing side but they needed patience too with chances at a premium.
The Blues are liberally sprinkled with England stardust but this is no three or four woman team. Rather it is a side reliant on all its components, new and old players, experienced stars names and rookies, those imported and those who’ve been wearing the Sky Blue for some time.
No-one exemplifies the latter category better than the aforementioned Johnston and Andrea Worrall (Sunday name for a Sunday match!) - the City loving goalkeeper who also bridges the old and new in the Club and is competing with Three Lionesses number one Karen Bardsley for the starting slot.
In Bardsley’s absence through injury, she was called into serious action twice in a physical first half; first plunging to her right to dig out Bruton’s low drive and later rising high to flick Kirby’s cross shot over the bar. She repeated that save in the second half from a free kick.
Reading fought hard all afternoon, chasing and hassling and were only finally undone by a 79th minute mistake from keeper Davies who spilled a speculative long range effort from Christiansen and then watched in agony as Duggan smelled blood and despatched the loose ball.
And so history was made!