Man City Women held on through a tough game at Adams Park to come away with a 4-3 win over Reading FC Women, with questions once again asked of the standard of refereeing in the WSL after the home side were awarded a penalty in suspicious circumstances.
Kelly Chambers side started on the front foot forcing the Blues to get back and it was a defensive error that gave the Royals the lead, Brooke Chaplen running between Abbie McManus and Steph Houghton before slotting the ball past Ellie Roebuck. Reading kept the pressure on City and a battle in midfield started that would continue for 90 minutes, a foul by Jill Scott on Remi Allen saw the visitors give away a free kick however Jo Potter’s ball went too far for Icelandic international Rakel Honnudottir and Roebuck collected.
A long ball from Demi Stokes for Mel Lawley saw the forward, who returned to the starting XI after a long spell on the bench, play Nikita Parris through but the 25 year old saw her shot blocked by former Blue Tash Harding. Stokes and Lawley were involved again, as was Jill, the midfielder finding Mel on the wing with the forward getting a cross into the box only for it to fall into empty space as none of her teammates had made the run; eventually one of them popped up and Georgia Stanway sent an effort high over Grace Moloney’s goal.
City pulled back the equaliser just before the fifteen minute mark, Scott playing a lovely ball for Parris to collect and run in behind the Reading defence, drawing Moloney out of her goal and slotting it home off the post.
McManus lost possession to Jade Moore but Stanway did well to win it back, the youngster finding Jill who in turn found Demi out wide, the defender making a good run down the wing before sending a cross in that looked to have come off Molly Bartrip but was in fact off Demi; Reading getting the goal kick.
A minute or so later, Georgia won the visitors a free kick after Jade Bailey fouled her and despite the City fans thoughts that it was too far, captain Steph Houghton took the set piece and sent a good effort goal wards; Grace Moloney making a brilliant save to deny the defender. Stanway took the following corner however the cross had too much on it and missed everyone, rolling out for a Reading free kick on the far side.
Brooke Chaplen’s wide cross was put behind by Abbie and the Royals won a corner on the half hour mark, Fara Williams stepping up to take and send a low cross in, Houghton getting a head to it and getting it away as far as Harding. The Welsh international sent it back into Bailey, Williams finding the head of Jade Moore with Chaplen capitalising on the loose ball and sending an effort wide of Roebuck’s goal. It wasn’t long before the home side were back in the Blues half and attacking again, Chaplen playing the ball wide for Harding to collect with the number 11 crossing into the area, only for the ball to find the head of Jen Beattie, Remi Allen arriving in the box to knock the loose ball wide.
Minutes before City took the lead, they saw an effort go wide as Georgia played a cross from wide in for Jill, the midfielder getting a foot to it but it was the wrong side of the post. However they did score the second time round, Mel turning away from Moore to play Demi through with the defender getting a cross in from the wing; Parris chipping the ball over Moloney at close range.
The visitors would gain a two goal advantage with seven minutes of normal time to go, McManus winning the ball off Williams and sending it long for Nikita, the forward collecting and putting it past the keeper to make it 3-1 and complete her hat trick which was surprisingly her first of the season. Parris could have had a fourth with three minutes left but Moloney was equal to it while a final bit of pressure from the Blues saw Lawley make the overlapping run to collect Stokes’s pass and beat Kirsty Pearce winning a corner. Stanway stepped up and her cross was met by Jen’s head however Jo Potter cleared any danger in the last action of the half.
City came out all guns blazing in the second half winning a corner within the first minute of play, Georgia sending a cross into the box only for it to be headed away by Remi Allen, Tessa Wullaert collecting a taking a shot which was deflected for another set piece.
The cross was sent in by Stanway with Steph getting her head to it but it didn’t trouble Grace Moloney and she collected comfortably.
Georgia brought the ball down well from Jill Scott’s pass with the forward finding Mel before she sent it back to Scott, Stanway receiving it once again and playing through Parris however there was too much weight on the ball and Moloney collected. However the Blues scored their fourth goal minutes later and it was an unexpected defender, Keira Walsh sending a long ball forward for Nikita with the forward playing through Demi; Stokes putting the Blues 4-1 up. The score line wouldn’t stay like that for long, Jade Moore chipping the ball over the defenders with Wullaert getting back to cover and watch it back to Ellie Roebuck but for seemingly no reason at all, the referee awarded the Royals a penalty.
City fans clearly saw Roebuck collect the ball without touching Remi Allen so were confused to see the penalty given despite an indirect free kick given at first, Fara Williams stepping up to send the spot kick into the back of the net.
Tessa collected the ball from Allen from a throw in, Keira Walsh sending it wide to substitute Janine Beckie, the Canadian making it quite far down the pitch before Harding held her up forcing her to go back to Stokes. The defender and Walsh played a one touch sequence before Demi lost possession to Harding, City playing it around until McManus sent a cross in from wide, however it went too far and behind for a goal kick.
With four minutes of normal time to go, Harding sent a long cross into the box which was met by the head of substitute Rachel Furness, Ellie getting a hand to it but because she was already down, she unfortunately missed the arriving Kirsty Pearce and her shot went into the back of the net.
Man City Women play Liverpool FC Women at home in the SSE Women’s FA Cup Quarter Final on Sunday 17th March; kick off 2pm. Tickets are still available. Should the Blues reach the semi-finals, the draw for the next round is on BBC Breakfast at 8:30am on Monday 18th March.
Reading FC Women
Grace Moloney, Fara Williams, Molly Bartrip, Kirsty Pearce ©, Remi Allen, Natasha Harding, Rakel Honnudottir (Lauren Bruton 61’), Jade Bailey, Jade Moore (Mayumi Pacheco 69’), Brooke Chaplen (Rachel Furness 84’) and Jo Potter
Subs (not used): Rachael Laws, Gemma Davison and Sophie Howard
Goals: Chaplen 3’, Williams 62’ (PEN) and Pearce 87’
Man City Women
Ellie Roebuck, Demi Stokes, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Mel Lawley (Janine Beckie 72’), Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris, Abbie McManus, Keira Walsh and Tessa Wullaert (Gemma Bonner 87’)
Subs (not used): Karen Bardsley, Lauren Hemp, Caroline Weir, Megan Campbell and Claire Emslie
Goals: Parris 13’ 36’ 39’ and Stokes 54’
Bookings: McManus 71’ and Parris 90+2’
MCWFC OSC POTM: Nikita Parris
Referee: Tom Reeves