Lioness class and Rowe’s spark stalled: Reading FC Women talking points

Reading FC Women vs Manchester City. Photo: Neil Graham.
Reading FC Women vs Manchester City. Photo: Neil Graham.

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Reading FC Women fell to a fifth league defeat from six games at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Sunday, losing 3-0 to high-flying Manchester City Women. Kelly Chambers’s charges now have until 20 November until they are back in action, owing to the international break so, plenty of time to reflect on the first part of the season before tackling Aston Villa in Birmingham. 

Here are some talking points from the defeat at the weekend… 

Mukandi’s ‘mare 

I might as well get this out of the way first but Reading captain, Emma Mukandi, will not look back on Sunday’s game with any great relish after scoring a brace of own goals. To my knowledge, I have never been to or played in a game where someone has scored two own goals [You clearly didn’t watch me play for FC Bracknell as a kid – TC]. The inglorious double occurred within the space of seven minutes – the first breaking the deadlock with City struggling to profit from their domination of the ball and the second doubling their lead and leading to shocked laughter ringing around the SCL. 

Emma Mitchell in action for Reading FC Women against Manchester City. Photo: Neil Graham.
Emma Mukandi in action for Reading FC Women against Manchester City. Photo: Neil Graham.

The Scot has endured a difficult return since returning to the squad in the summer so here’s hoping that her fortunes turn for the better after the international break.

Have you ever been to a game where someone has scored more than one goal? Tell us about it on Twitter or in the comments section at the bottom. 

Rowe Reading’s spark 

If Reading were going to test City’s defence then the feeling was that, after her heroic double to down Leicester the previous weekend, Rachel Rowe would be best-placed to cause the damage. The Welshwoman’s momentum was somewhat stalled, however, in a first-half in which Reading only had 20% possession with their front three, including Rowe, starved of the ball.

Rachel Rowe faces the camera's after the Reading FC Women win over Leicester City. Photo: Neil Graham.
Rachel Rowe faces the camera’s after the Reading FC Women win over Leicester City. Photo: Neil Graham.

It looked like Rowe would have to settle for a bystander’s role but midway through the second-half, she dropped deeper to get more touches in the ball and started having an impact. Her determination to make something happen inspired Reading’s best spell of the game at 2-0 down with multiple corners won and Rowe almost surpassing her stunning strike the previous weekend with an audacious 35-yard volley from near the touchline which had City keeper, Sandy MacIver, scrambling. 

Rowe was unlucky not to have anything tangible next to her name on Sunday but she demonstrated how important she is to the Royals if they are to see an upturn in form this season. 

Ball retention lacking 

In a game where possession of the ball was precious, Reading too often gave it away cheaply. The Royals defended admirably but the frequent concessions of the ball to City made an uphill struggle an impossible task and meant it was a case of damage limitation rather than a game which would go down to the wire like the Arsenal defeat. This must be a focus for other games against the top sides in the league. 

Lionesses’ class 

Chloe Kelly was surprisingly left on the bench for Sunday’s game but there was no such luxury for Lauren Hemp and, in an 80-minute display before being taken off to the relief of the home support, the left winger appeared intent on winning the game all by herself. 

Manchester City Women's Lauren Hemp. Photo: Neil Graham.
Manchester City Women’s Lauren Hemp. Photo: Neil Graham.

It’s hard to think of a more direct attacking performance than Hemp’s in recent memory as she destroyed, first, Faye Bryson and then Deanna Cooper on the wing. Every time Hemp picked up the ball, her first thought was to run at the defence and, more often than not, either shoot or cross. On another day, she would have scored a hat-trick though there was a satisfaction to be had from essentially assisting both of Mukandi’s unfortunate own goals. 

After such an electric performance, it’s a shame we won’t get to see her inflict pain on Japan and Norway in an England shirt after pulling out of the squad due to injury. 

Kelly will hope to pull on the England jersey over the next week and showed her quality in a short cameo appearance at the end of the game, stretching Lily Woodham defensively as City enjoyed acres of space on both wings to hurt the Royals. 

Star appeal 

Alex Greenwood. Photo: Neil Graham.
Alex Greenwood. Photo: Neil Graham.

Whilst it may not seem the case if you focus on the empty seats at the SCL, the popularity of the game is growing. That was underlined when leaving the stadium fully an hour after the final whistle, I walked past a group of 20-30 fans waiting for their City heroines to leave the ground in the hope of getting a selfie/autograph. The clamour for Lionesses was plain to see in the shirts being held aloft for the attention of the players by the coach and is further proof of the appeal of the women’s game. 

With the Lionesses in World Cup action next year and playing a string of high-profile fixtures in the meantime this growth in popularity will surely continue rising

Related: Berkshire youngsters called up to England Lionesses squads

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