Sometimes the best place to start is at the end so that's what I'm going to do...kind of, the beginning of the end.
WSL 2 to be exact, Reading FC Women were on fire. The first couple of games the girls had a few hiccups as Yeovil proved a tough challenge and there was also Doncaster to tend with later in the season who would prove to be a little thorn in their side. Out of 18 total matches the girls won 14, drew 3 and lost 1 but it wasn't that simple as Doncaster matched them every step of the way. In the end it came down to goal difference and their title win was helped by thrashing London Bees early on before the departure of Fran Kirby who scored 5 in that game then helped on by their new signing wonder girl Emma Follis. I for one didn't realise how important that Bees thrashing would be until nearer the end of the season.
WSL 1 was within touching distance and after a 3-1 win against Watford on September 27th yet they had to wait 20 entire minutes as another game happening at the same time which decided their fate had some historic stoppage time. Both the team and fans were glued to Twitter until finally it was confirmed that Reading were going up.
Top Division Life
Sunderland had previously gone up the year before and smashed the first half of the season, we all knew it was possible but we didn't realistically think it would happen, the goal was to stay up and stay above rival's Donny who were promoted alongside Reading in second place. However, none of us were prepared for how difficult it was actually going to be.
The season was a bit odd as Reading seemed to have lots of games back to back then nothing for a few weeks and with a lot of the first games being away from our new home ground, I personally felt like our first home game was away, it was a strange experience. Games came, games went and Reading either drew or would marginally lose in the last 10 minutes. This was hard enough from a spectator point of view and as the games went on it became extremely hard on the girls, it felt as if the promotion bubble we had arrived in had been viciously burst by the harsh reality of WSL 1. There's a definite gap between the two leagues which you can only imagine until you actually experience it for yourself.
In true Royal fashion the fans stuck by the team through everything and never stopped singing, the girls always came up to the fans after to applaud their support but you could see the disappointment in their eyes. On a good note, many teams who on paper should have thrashed Reading often said how we had been their toughest opponents of the season and that included Nick Cushing, manager of title winning Manchester City Women! Now that's a compliment!
The girls deserved a win and in all honesty, their best chances for points were probably Birmingham (who had previously battled relegation) and Doncaster. Birmingham proved a stalemate as both games ended 1-1 and supporters on social media seemed to be growing increasingly frustrated however, Donny were still to come.
September 24th arrived, Reading had 3 games left Doncaster, Chelsea (who were chasing Man City for the title) and Donny again. Both were in desperate need of a win as only one team were going back down and Donny were rock bottom not picking up a single point. To save an entire match report, Reading won 4-1 and finally got those illusive 3 points. I can't even describe how it felt but there's nothing like it after such a tough first season. I didn't get to speak to the girls after but I'm guessing they're pretty chuffed as well!
Doncaster still have a few games in hand against Reading and it's still mathematically possible they could get the advantage but with Donny's performances this season and our last game against them on November 6th, confidence of staying up is pretty high in the fan camp after that win, even the fact we have Chelsea before is almost forgotten about...almost.
So how are feelings right now? Well of course I can't say how the team feel but for me personally, I've never had any doubt that Reading will stay up and I know they will take experiences from this season and improve on it next season and maybe finish slightly higher. Whatever their result next year I do know one thing, Reading have the best fans in the league who will be behind them no matter what, so hang on in there and stay behind the girls as I truly believe that they're staying up and we haven't seen the last of WSL 1 just yet. We may even welcome more rivals from WSL 2 as Yeovil Town are doing very well, just to add an extra challenge next season, why the hell not!