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F.A.Women's Cup - Road to the Final
Reading Women went through to the Fifth Round after a 2-0 extra time victory over Blackburn Rovers, given to them by goals from Francesca Kirby and Helen Ward after Nicola Davies had earlier saved a penalty. Now Jayne Ludlow's side have to travel north in the last sixteen to play FA WSL1 newcomers Manchester City.
Manchester City Women's Football Club was founded in 1988 by one of City in the Community's original members, Neil Mather. Back then, the club was known as Manchester City Ladies and was created after a series of successful local tournaments led Mather to suggest holding an event exclusively for female football teams. The tournament proved a hit and several talented women took part. Mather then made a formal proposal to Manchester City's club secretary, Bernard Halford, to set up a women's team which would be run by CITC.
The idea was approved and a number of advertisements appeared in the programme. Trials were held at Platt Lane, with more than 30 women turning up for the first session and 70 in attendance for the second. Many attendees were lifelong City fans and the first squad included several Blues in its ranks.
In January 2014, the club launched the newly-renamed Manchester City Women's Football Club, reflecting the team's values as professional, athletic, skilful and as positive role models.
The club's first competitive game was a friendly against Oldham Athletic Ladies, played at Boundary Park. Transport and kit was provided by Manchester City and the women's side went on to play many more friendlies before they entered into the regional league for the North West. As the club cemented itself into league football, they began to recruit more experienced players. The Blues went on to participate in tournaments and friendly games that often tied in with the men's fixtures.
As Manchester City aimed to move away from the 1970s and 80s image of football as a male-dominated environment, the women's team became more and more popular. They made an appearance in an episode of World In Action and one of their games was shown on the Saturday morning children's programme, Wide Awake Club. Twenty five years later, City Women has kept its affiliation with the men's side and in August 2012, Manchester City announced its commitment to the women's team as part of a systematic rebuilding of the football club and the recognition of the need to formalise the relationship for the benefit of the women and girls' game.
The announcement marked an exciting new era for the women's side, who had been promoted into the Women's National Division - the second highest tier in UK women's football. It was the club's stated ambition from the outset to achieve entry to the FA Women's Super League and in April 2013, this ambition was realised. In the winter of the same year, the Blues made their first marquee signing in Jill Scott, before going on to recruit top internationals Karen Bardsley, Toni Duggan, Steph Houghton and Betsy Hassett to their ranks.
Featuring speeches on the club's history, present status and plans for the future, the event also saw the club reveal its dedication to improving women's football in the local community, with a plan to hold a series of coaching programmes for girls in the area delivered by CITC. Now, Manchester City Women's Football Club is about to embark on its most exciting adventure yet, as the team bids to compete in the highest tier of women's football against some of the best players in the world.
The team is managed by Nick Cushing and Steph Houghton, who now also wears the armband for England, is club captain.
Manchester City (from): Karen Bardsley, Andrea Worrall, Dani Lea, Emma Lipman, Nicki Harding, Steph Houghton, Steph Marsh, Chelsea Nightingale, Kim Turner, Lynda Shepherd, Jill Scott, Jess Holbrook, Betsy Hassett, Toni Duggan, Krystle Johnston, Dani Young, Issy Christiansen, Natasha Flint.
Reading Women (from): Grace Moloney, Nicola Davies, Alex Keown, Connie Short, Georgie Giddings, Ciara Grant, Melissa Fletcher, Cheryl Williams, Rebecca Jane, Lois Roche, Francesca Kirby, Lauren Bruton, Kirsty McGee, Leigh Nicol, Shelly Cox, Eartha Pond, Molly Bartrip.
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