It’s back to Adam’s Park on Thursday 1st September for Reading FC Women against Liverpool with only 5 games of the league season remaining for the Royals and still with work to do to ensure their WSL1 status for next season.
With only one team facing the drop this season, the favourites for that dubious honour are currently Doncaster Belles, who were promoted alongside Reading last season. Donny sit on zero points, with the Royals 2 places ahead of them on six points, but with the clubs due to face each other twice before the season is out it’s by no means a done deal that things will end up that way.
Reading have been excellent in patches this season, deservedly picking up 6 draws from their 11 matches, but for some reason haven’t yet managed to get over the line for a win. When they are firing on all cylinders and taking the game to the opposition they have been a match for anyone, but against the bigger clubs they have tended to approach things quite defensively and then been undone by the odd goal here and there, having soaked up pressure like a particularly soggy sponge for large periods.
So what can we expect from Thursday’s match? I honestly haven’t got the foggiest! But I’ll have a stab at it anyway…
Further development of building slowly from the back
Against Manchester City it was clear that Reading were trying to keep the ball amongst the back 5 for sustained periods, assumedly to build confidence, look for openings, take some of the pressure off and to take the sting out of the opposition. Although it was a bit tense to watch at times, the players made a good job of it until City pushed further forwards and limited the opportunities.
As we saw when the men’s team tried this under Brendan Rodgers, and then again under Nigel Adkins, its success relies on having players who are very comfortable on the ball. Hopefully our back 5 enjoy the passing game and that it helps unlock the Liverpool defence, but it’s definitely not something that comes quickly so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
Multifunctional, flexible Reading players
In recent weeks we have seen quite a few players appearing in positions we had assumed were not their natural ones. Rachel Rowe has been at full back, central midfield and on the wing. Kayleigh Hines has popped up in both midfield and defence, as has Molly Bartrip and Helen Ward has appeared on the bench, which is definitely not her normal position!
Clearly the Royals are a flexible multi-skilled bunch, so expect to see a few more surprises to keep things fresh. Mary Earps up front, Helen Ward in goal and Emma Follis at centre back anyone?!
Attacking, free-flowing high-tempo enjoyable football
With just 5 games to go and Reading looking good for staying in WSL1 it could well be the time to throw everything at the Liverpool game to get 3 points and pretty much secure survival ahead of 2 very tough games against Chelsea and 2 very tense ones against Donny.
Players at any level will make the odd mistake and no game plan will ever go perfectly to script, but Reading have looked most dangerous when pushing forwards and more prone to slip ups when on the defensive. A lot will depend on how Liverpool approach things, but we’ve got some top class attacking options who can cause havoc if let off the leash and with attendances not quite taking off as much as hoped, an exciting end to the season would really help build the fanbase and enthusiasm for the future.
With only 3 home games left this season it’s a great time to get down to Adam’s Park to see what women’s football is all about. What is guaranteed is that you’ll see a squad full of hard working, talented individuals who will give it absolutely everything to send the fans home happy. And at the end of the day, win, lose or draw, that’s what football is all about.
Locally the Southern Region Women’s Football League and Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League kick off on Sunday. We’ll have previews on our women’s football pages here.