After tearing their way through WSL 2, Reading took some time to adjust to life in the top flight, the team no long allowed to dictate play and dominate their opposition but forced to fall into a more defensive shape.
Wobbly but considerably better than the Belles over the 2016 season, the Royals’ defence stood them well, the team emulating Birmingham as they dug in for a league high of six draws (tied with the Blues). Their 26 goals conceded, significantly less than the Belles and Sunderland, the same as ill-fated Notts and only three more than Liverpool.
A raft of signings ahead of the season followed by more ahead of the Spring Series has left Kelly Chambers team looking little like the side that romped their way to the WSL 2 title in 2015.
However, with new personnel, comes fresh quality and a chance for more stability in the league. The team resembling Birmingham even more now than at the end of 2016 with former Blues, Kirsty Linnett, Jo Potter and Jade Moore added to the set-up as well as pair of former Lady Black Cats, Brooke Chaplen and Rachel Furness.
Despite the strong additions since their move to WSL 1 – including signing Mandy van den Berg from Liverpool and most recently, Fara Williams from Arsenal – the team has yet to pull away from the bottom pack.
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Finishing the Spring Series in sixth with two wins – the same as Sunderland – Reading had more joy in front of goal but saw more goals conceded per game than during the 2016 season.
Still looking for the right balance on the pitch and possibly a further addition or two, Reading shouldn’t have any problem staying safe this season, predicted to finish clear of the three sides up from WSL 2. Whilst the team are unlikely to be challenging the top three any time soon, there is still more the team can do to cement themselves further up the table.