MARY EARPS says Reading can “take a lot of heart” from their battling display, despite FA Cup defeat against reigning Women’s Super League champions Manchester City.
In their first competitive game since November, Royals pushed their illustrious opponents to the limit with an 83rd minute strike from England international Lucy Bronze all that separated the sides.
And Earps, who had a busy day between the sticks, including a penalty save to deny Georgia Stanway, says there are plenty of positives from the trip to the north west.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough game,” she told The Wokingham Paper.
“Man City are a very, very strong side and they’re league champions for a reason.
“We executed the gameplan exactly as we wanted to really, but they’re a side of great quality and they broke through us eventually.
“I felt we were really resilient and we can take a lot of heart from the way we performed.
“I have no doubt that if we continue to develop the way we have over pre-season, we will be picking up much better results.”
Facing a side in Man City who won the title unbeaten, conceding just four goals along the way, was always likely to be tough for the visitors and so it proved.
Earps was called into action on numerous occasions with fine stops to deny Stanway, Jane Ross and Jill Scott.
But, as is the life of a goalkeeper, one error proved costly as Earps failed to deal with a speculative Bronze volley, tipping the ball in off the crossbar with just seven minutes to play.
“It was a very busy game for me personally and obviously I was happy I could keep the team in the game for as long as possible,” said Earps.
“I’m disappointed to concede so close to the end, but these things happen.
“I’m there to help the team as much as possible and I’m happy I could do my job but obviously we couldn’t hold out for long enough.”
Royals boss Kelly Chambers handed debuts to all four of her winter signings at the weekend in Anna Green, Rachel Furness, Brooke Chaplen and Mandy van den Berg as part of a new-look Reading side.
And Earps, who recently signed a new contract with the club, says the club is going in the right direction.
“Kelly and the club in general have a very clear vision and ambition about how they want to move going forward,” said the goalkeeper.
“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to stay. Their strategy and ambitions excited me.
“I think the club is all about developing players and that was one of the main things that sticks out.
“It’s a very exciting time to be part of the club.
She added: “The new girls are doing well.
“I live with Greeny (Anna Green), she’s one of my housemates so I’m getting to know her pretty well now.
“I feel like I’ve known Mandy (van den Berg) for a while as well. I think she’s got a good professionalism and spirit about her.
“Brooke (Chaplen) is similar so yeah I think they are all settling in well and I’d like to think they’d be enjoying their football at the same time as developing.
“I feel like they’ve fitted in well and there’s a good team spirit and atmosphere in the group which is very, very important.
“I think going into the season we’re going to need to work hard to keep that because when the results start coming in, that’s when the spirit of the group is really tested.
“If we continue to be as together as we have been thus far, I think we will go far.”
Reading now face another break before returning to action for the start of their Spring Series on April 22 at Bristol City.
During that time, the club will travel for a training camp in the Algarve and will also play Spanish side Real Betis Feminas.
“We will be put through our paces for sure,” said Earps.
“Everything will be meticulously worked out to make sure we are in the best possible shape we can be technically, tactically and physically for the start of the Spring Series.
“There’s a period when we play four games in 16 days, so we’ve got to be ready.
“We go away on a little tour next week to Portugal and we’ve got a number of friendlies lined up as well.”