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Helen Ward column: Title is in our sights at Royals

(Photo by Nigel Hoyle)

What a whirlwind! Last weekend was probably one of the most unexpected and exciting weekends in my entire football career.

I was asked on the radio last Friday whether there was any chance that Reading FC Women could secure promotion to the Women’s Super League top-flight that weekend. I honestly hadn’t even considered the possibility.

With Everton playing at home to Durham and Yeovil hosting Oxford, it seemed as though our trip to Watford would merely be another chance for us to extend our lead over the aforementioned pair, if not to cut them adrift.

As we kicked off at midday on Sunday we were fully aware that, due to Everton’s draw at home the previous day, a win would end their hopes of breaking into the promotion spots. By winning the game 3-1 we had achieved just that and at 2pm we settled down for some post-match food and turned our focus to the Yeovil game that was just about to kick off.

Due to doping control being in attendance, we knew that we could be there for the long haul and so, while the usual chit-chat was in full flow, suddenly an Oxford United strike had grabbed the attention of everyone involved at Reading. Players, staff and fans alike spent the next two hours frantically refreshing their Twitter feeds in order to keep up with the game.

The Watford contingent slowly disappeared and by 4pm it was just the barman and a group of very nervous and excited Royals.

The two players returned from doping, only to have to endure an agonising 22 minutes of injury time due to a bad head injury.

But when it was finally confirmed that our local rivals had done us a huge favour, the bar at Berkhamsted FC erupted. The wonderfully generous barman appreciated the achievement and offered everyone a drink to toast our success.

The party was well and truly underway and, after a journey back to Reading, the players and staff alike celebrated into the small hours – Bianca Bragg was spotted still wearing her match shirt on Monday morning!

This isn’t the end of the season, however, as every single member of the squad and all of the staff have aspirations to lift the league trophy on the final day.  We have created history for the club already, but we aren’t done yet!

We were back to work on Tuesday and got stuck right in with a high intensity session full of energy and quality. Our aim is to go into the remaining three games and take maximum points. It won’t be easy by any means, all three of our opponents are more than capable of producing excellent football and spoiling our party, but we will do our utmost to stop that from happening and we are working as hard as ever to ensure that we go into the games in the best shape possible to achieve our dream.

We know that Doncaster Belles will be feeling exactly the same way and I feel that it is only right that the title goes down to the wire. Both teams have led from the off and, with the points and goal difference so close, it is set to be a cracking end to a superb season.

In terms of next season, preparation starts now. We are all playing for our places and we all want to be a part of the continuing success of the club. We know how tough it is going to be as we take our place amongst the top teams, but we are confident we can hold our own.

This season has seen us face Arsenal, Chelsea and Notts County and we lost out by only a single goal each time. We also scored at least one in each, which is a great sign for the future. With hard work, more training and a few additions to the squad, I truly believe we will do well in the FA WSL1 next season – subject to meeting the FA’s licensing criteria, of course!

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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