Sunderland Ladies - Reading Women Preview: Lady Black Cats start their second season in the big league

Carlton Fairweather's side host the Royals in their opening fixture of the new WSL 1 season on Saturday afternoon.

Sunderland Ladies - Reading Women Preview: Lady Black Cats start their second season in the big league
The Black Cats meet the Royals for the first time since 2014. (Photo: Susan Gutteridge)

Newly promoted Reading Women are the first challenge of a second season in WSL 1 for Sunderland Ladies.

Improving on last season

The coming year will have to go some way to beating 2015 for Sunderland after they finished fourth in their debut season in WSL 1, even coming close to winning the league title.

Carlton Fairweather's side will have been disappointed with the finish in the end after such a great start to the season, plus the fact they were top for quite a few games. However, a poor end to the campaign let them down and they will hope to make amends this term.

Pre season

Sunderland kicked off their pre-season against Glasgow City with a 0-0 draw in Scotland; a good test against a side who played UEFA Women's Champions League football last year.

They then played a behind closed doors game in Scotland's other main city, Edinburgh, as they drew again against Hibernian. Their most eye catching friendly though came against Sheffield FC, where they won 5-4.

New faces

The Lady Black Cats have made four new signings over the long off season period, with Lucy Staniforth's return to the club after six years away the most notable.

Rachel Pitman, Krystle Johnston and Kylia Sjoman have joined her on Wearside for the 2016 season. Left back Sjoman has two caps for Canada, while Johnston turned out for runners-up Manchester City last year.

Staniforth in back on Wearside after six years away. (Photo: Sunderland AFC Ladies)
Staniforth in back on Wearside after six years away. (Photo: Sunderland AFC Ladies)

The opposition

Reading will be filled with the same hope Sunderland had last year as they embark on a first ever season in the WSL 1.

The Royals, like their opening day hosts, come up as WSL 2 champions after they edged Doncaster Belles to the title on goal difference. Both finished the season with 45 points from their 18 games, and they only lost one league game each all season.

They have renewed the contracts of 14 players and brought in some big names too; such as goalkeeper Mary Earps and forward Jade Boho-Sayo, who is already off the mark for the season after scoring in Reading's season opener.

However, Boho-Sayo's strike couldn't give the Royals a win in midweek, with them losing 3-1 at Arsenal and hoping to bounce back today.

History between the teams

It's been nearly two years since the teams met, when both were in WSL 2 back in 2014.

Sunderland came away unbeaten from the two meetings that season as they claimed a 3-2 win at this weekend's venue and drew the away fixture 1-1 on their way to the title.