Manchester City v Liverpool Ladies

Strength in Depth

OK yes the only thing up for grabs on Sunday was winning the group and judging by the cup draw it neither guaranteed you a home draw nor avoiding the another group winner as City drew Arsenal away. However when your unbeaten since the world cup, have dropped just two points and are facing a side you’ve already lost to in the league you want to win every game.

However City were without Daphne Corboz yesterday as she appeared in the stands wearing a medical boot on her left ankle and Tash Harding is still out of the team. Kathleen Radtke was on the bench whilst both Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan were withdrawn from proceedings as a precaution over injuries they sustained in the game.

In their place Keira Walsh started in the midfield as Jenny Beattie partnered Steph Houghton at centre back and impressed and Krystle Johnstone made her sixth start of the season on the right wing. Whilst when City were forced into changes they were able to call upon Abbie McManus at right back and the talented Natasha Flint. Abbie McManus has always looked assured in the City side at both centre back and full back. Natasha Flint, an England Under 19 international, is a great talent and certainly a player to watch for the future, manager Nick Cushing has thrown her into games to try and win them (as opposed to when a game is already won or lost) and looks to make something happen every time.

Walsh, just 18 years old, fitted in perfectly in front of the back four, fully deserved her player of the match and is not just a player for the future but also a player for the present. It’s been a real key position to fill for City this season, first with Beattie and now Walsh. Her tackling and range of passing were superb and can offer genuine competition for Beattie in that position.

Krystle Johnston – A proper old fashioned winger

Arguably even more pleasing than just having five England Internationals in the squad (tongue firmly in cheek) is the fact that City had six Mancunians in the squad on Sunday as Kiera Walsh and Krystle Johnstone started (plus Izzy Christiansen is from Macclesfield) whilst on the bench they had Alex Brooks, Georgia Broughman, Abbie McManus and Natasha Flint.

One of the benefits of the Continental Cup so far this season has been to allow Nick Cushing to rotate his squad against Doncaster Ladies and Durham County. In the latter game Krystle Johnstone terrorised the Durham defence in an attacking display not seen in a blue shirt since Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Johnston able to switch from the left to the right at will terrorised the Liverpool defence and adds yet another dimension to City’s attack, especially in the absence of Corboz. To bring comparison back to the first team the additional width allowed City women’s to match the style of the first team with Duggan on one wing and Johnston on the other thus stretching the play and allowing room for Chrisiansen to play. Krystle Johnstone’s a brilliantly exciting player to watch.

The long term effects of MCWFC

On the tram on route to the game yesterday there were several young kids on board adorned in full City kit singing their hearts out to all the City songs they knew. Aside from it being really cute and often hilarious when they replaced swear words with the actual word ‘beep’ it really demonstrated to what purpose for the City Football Group to invest so heavily in women’s football.

Whilst the women’s world cup has been a brilliantly timed PR coup for the women’s game as City themselves go into overdrive with arguably the most marketable star in Toni Duggan and its newest emerging star in Lucy Bronze (I know, I know but thats what the mainstream media will tell you). There is a long term strategy that they are embarking on that is going to leave United (amongst other clubs) behind in generations to come.

Its fair to say that the ownership of United won’t be interested in hurting their bottom line by underwriting a women’s team to which they see no short term benefit but City’s owners have repeatedly shown that they are in it for the long haul with their continued investment in club infrastructure. They announced a crowd of 1,800 yesterday but like non-league club chairman of yesterday who under announce a crowd to avoid the tax man there seemed a significantly bigger crowd yesterday as they opened up a section of the West stand in addition to a section behind the goal.

What City have done though is they’ve appealed themselves to the remaining demographics that football eludes currently alludes in the mens game. At the Academy Stadium there were people in attendance who just wouldn’t be in attendance at a Premier League game whether it be for financial reasons or the just don’t like the atmosphere of a Premier League fixture. There were also supporters in attendance who weren’t Manchester City supporters but bringing young children, especially girls, who want to see their new heroes.

Seeing them live over seeing them on television breeds that connection that the next generation of football supporter are going to lose from their sofa or in the pub. Then comes the replica shirt (with Bronze or Duggan or Parris on the back) and when there old enough become fully fledged Manchester City supporters…then so do their kids…and their kids after that.

They’ve even done the same in Melbourne as they’ve added a women’s team and one would assume New York might do the same once their stadium issues are resolved. A league title would really send it into overdrive but you have to believe the sky is the limit for this team and group of players.

Apologies for the late post (its been a busy week) but I’ll be back on Sunday for Manchester City women v Liverpool Ladies

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