West Ham United Ladies manager Julia Setford urged her players to get back on the goal trail, as the Hammers travel to second-placed Reading for Sunday's crucial FA Women's Premier League Southern Division clash.

The Hammers have netted just twice in their last four outings in all competitions, in the absence of the prolific Hannah Gowland.

In recent weeks they have twice been held at home, against leaders Millwall Lionesses and then by Colchester United, draws that Setford accepts are hampering their promotion push.

"In the last two games, if I'm honest we've missed out on two wins," said Setford. "We're going through a tough spell where we just can't finish.

"We signed Gowland, had her for a couple of weeks and then she broke her ankle. It's a bit of nightmare. We're strong all over the park and we've got quality strikers but they're not hitting the back of the net at the moment.

"All the girls, as all footballers do, run off confidence and none more so than strikers. It's just unfortunate at the moment that they've all hit the same spot. But as a group we keep believing and continue to work hard."

Reflecting upon last Sunday's frustrating 1-1 draw with Essex rivals Colchester, Setford explained that the elements had hardly aided their cause. Torrential rain made for a difficult surface at Thurrock FC's Ship Lane, where the influential Becky Merritt scored one penalty and missed a second, as the Hammers lost ground at the top.

"Unfortunately we couldn't really play our football and we couldn't get the ball down and play," Setford added. "The ball was sticking everywhere. Becky was bitterly disappointed that the second penalty didn't go in, but she's so strong that she'll just get on with it. She's a leader throughout the whole team and particularly on the pitch on a Sunday.

"It was a missed opportunity, but we can't rely just on penalties, we've got to be scoring in open play. We'll pick the team up and we'll push forward to try and get three points on Sunday."

West Ham go into Sunday's game six points behind the Royals with a game in hand, but Setford is adamant her side have nothing to fear, in the knowledge they usually save their best for the division's top teams.

Meanwhile, this weekend's clash is the first of two meetings between the sides in the space of just eight days, with the reverse fixture scheduled for the following Sunday. While that might present a tactical headache, for the time being Setford is just desperate for the wintry weather to clear off.

"We're going to go there and play our game and if we can dominate from the off, I'm confident that we can pick up the points. We always perform better against the stronger sides. It will be a good game and one I'm looking forward to.

"In this league, a lot of the teams are up and down and you do get strange results. It only takes Millwall to drop a couple of points and we're right back in it. Hopefully, we'll be able to get the three points. We're definitely still in the title race.

"It will be like a game of chess. They'll see the way we play and vice versa. Hopefully on the day we can just go out there, play our football and get the right result. It's just a case of going with what we believe in. Hopefully we won't fall foul of the weather again, we just want to get the game on and play."

West Bromwich Albion