Sunderland Ladies fought back to earn a deserved point against Reading Women in their opening fixture of the new FAWSL1 campaign at Eppleton CW.

The Royals went ahead minutes before half-time as Lois Roche go a toe on a driven free-kick before Beth Mead struck back seconds into the final period.

Mead was then denied a second after a superb last ditch clearance off the line, while at the other end Rachael Laws made a string of fine stops to keep the hosts on level terms.

Fresh from their fifth round SSE Women’s FA Cup victory at Yeovil Town last Sunday, which saw Brooke Chaplen score a hat-trick, the Lasses returned the north east to start their FAWSL1 campaign.

After impressing last season in their debut top flight campaign, the Ladies entertained Reading at Eppleton Colliery Welfare eager to begin in a similar vein of form as they did last season.

An intense downpour ahead of kick-off made conditions particularly challenging for both sides, but Sunderland found their feet well and went close inside the opening 15 minutes through Abbey Joice and Brooke Chaplen.

The Lasses' cup hero last weekend looked to in fine form as minutes later she unleashed an ambitious drive from 25-yards, which forced Grace Moloney to tip the shot round the post.

Mead then went close after an excellent cross from Rachel Furness saw the striker flick the ball goal-bound; however again, Moloney got hands to the effort.

Sunderland looked to be getting a grip on the game but Reading took advantage of the hosts’ inability to convert their chances and went ahead through Roche in the 41st minute.

Helen Ward drilled a free-kick goal-wards and Roche got a touch on the ball to divert it into the opposite corner and leave Laws wrong footed.Reading went in at half time with a slender lead but within seconds of the restart that lead evaporated as the prolific Mead opened her account for the season.

An incisive through ball saw Mead round Moloney before slotting calmly home to draw the hosts level.

Moments later, Mead thought she had given Sunderland the lead after a superb ball from Furness carved Reading’s defence in two.

Mead broke through the middle and fired under Moloney but just as she wheeled away to celebrate her shot was cleared off the line.

That clearance gave Reading real encouragement and they too went close to going ahead – through Roche – however, Laws again did well to tip her inventive free-kick over.

As the half wore on Reading continued to grow into the game and Sunderland were made to sit back and be patient in their play.

Keira Ramshaw – on as a half-time substitute – forced Moloney into making a save after a neat touch and go from Mead.

Reading ended the game the stronger of the two sides but they failed to make their pressure tell and the game finished level.

Sunderland Ladies starting XI: Laws, Holmes, Bannon, Williams, Sjoman, Johnston (Ramshaw, 45), Furness, Chaplen, Staniforth, Joice (Kelly, 45), Mead.

Unused subs: Olsen, McDougall, Beer, Potts, Roche.

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