Called dark horses by some and written off by others, there can be no denying that Reading have exceeded all expectations this season.
Falling into step
Summer business was minimal for Kelly Chambers, the manager busy over the Spring Series, the addition of Fara Williams from Arsenal the transfer of note, the squad looking to kick on with firm foundations.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the Royals however and they fell to a loss on the first day of the season before finding a win the next time out, Reading up and running. The league cup – having reverted to a group format – gave the Royals more game time to find their swing, the team finishing the year strongly, that form dispersing at the start of the new year. It was five matches before Reading picked up another win, four matches at home over three competitions only bringing about a home draw over Arsenal. The winless run a mere bump in the road as Reading found their best form of the campaign, dropping just seven points from their last ten matches of the season. From a draw away to Chelsea that they would have been kicking themselves for not taking all three points to a commanding win in Manchester, the Royals turned on the style.
It wasn’t just the results but the football being played, the team having found a real harmony with Remi Allen and Brooke Chaplen finding some of their best goal scoring form for years. Though it wasn’t just the newer faces around the team, former-Gunner, Lauren Bruton having tapped back into her best football, the team without a any recognised superstars but playing smart and classy football.
Out of both cup competitions early in the season after their brutal run at the start of 2018, the Royals were left alone to focus on their league form, the southern side climbing the table and making ground on the top two. Up to third come the last weeks of the season, Arsenal slipped ahead as they dealt with their games in hand, pushing Reading down to fourth, a draw on the last day of the season opening up a gap.
Given the scope of Reading’s progress it’s easy to forget that they were only promoted to WSL 1 at the end of the 2015 season, their first spell in the top-flight a nervous affair that saw them stay up by virtue of being a touch better than the Belles. From there the team is barely recognisable, there has been considerable player turn-over but some names from 2015 still remain, and have played a vital role this season, Chambers having done a superb job.