EIGHT FOR POM­PEY DOU­BLED INI’S TALLY

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Paddy von Behr

INI UMOTONG net­ted eight goals in 90 min­utes ear­lier this month, but the Portsmouth striker is used to rais­ing a few eye­brows.

For a 21-year-old, she has al­ready packed a fair amount into her ca­reer, in­clud­ing two sea­sons in the US and a World Cup cam­paign in Canada ear­lier this year.

Back on th­ese shores, she is in her sec­ond year of an eco­nomics de­gree at Southamp­ton and giv­ing Women’s Premier League de­fences the runaround ev­ery Sun­day.

In a sea­son where she has found the net eight times in 11 games, she matched that tally in­side 90 min­utes a fort­night ago as Portsmouth beat AFC Stone­ham 18-0 in the Hamp­shire Chal­lenge Cup.

“A couple of chances were saved but I man­aged to put the ma­jor­ity of them away,” shrugged Umotong.

That was the lat­est high­light in what has been a mo­men­tous year for the young for­ward, which be­gan with the World Cup.

Umotong earned her maiden call-up to the Nige­ria squad only in Fe­bru­ary, when she had to skip the first two weeks of camp to keep up with her stud­ies.

But, by the time the com­pe­ti­tion rolled around in June, she was named in the fi­nals squad and took her place on the plane to Canada.

While the Su­per Ea­gles picked up a soli­tary point in the group stage and Umotong didn’t man­age to get on the pitch, she looks back on the ad­ven­ture with great pride.

“It was amaz­ing. It was such a busy time with univer­sity and it all hap­pened so fast for me,” she said.

“I still couldn’t be­lieve I was there, but I definitely made the most of the ex­pe­ri­ence and learned a lot.

“I was a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed not to play, but I was still so grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and en­cour­aged to make the next World Cup squad.

“As soon as I came back, I had to take my ex­ams.There wasn’t much of a break – it was one ex­treme to the next.

“I’m in my sec­ond year at univer­sity and I strug­gle jug­gling ev­ery­thing, but so far, so good. Last year was the hard­est, trav­el­ling to the World Cup, but I still got a first.”

Umotong’s foot­ball jour­ney be­gan with Birm­ing­ham City, aged ten, be­fore a short stint with As­ton Villa in her teens and a trip across the At­lantic.

Two sea­sons with Wright State Univer­sity of­fered a glimpse into her goal-scor­ing tal­ent. Portsmouth were quick to cap­i­talise on her re­turn to Eng­land in 2014, when univer­sity took her to the South Coast.

Now the goal is sim­ple – take Portsmouth to the Women’s Su­per League.

“We’ve had our rough patch in the sea­son and that’s now be­hind us,” said Umotong, who scored twice as they beat Tot­ten­ham last week­end and moved into fifth place in the Premier League Southern Di­vi­sion.

“The men­tal­ity of the team changed a lit­tle bit.We re­alised how good we are and how much we want to get into that Su­per League.

“I will do ev­ery­thing in my power to make sure we are there next sea­son.”

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