Sunderland Ladies boss relishing big kick-off at Reading

Long-serving Sunderland defender Abby Holmes has moved to the Netherland to play.
Long-serving Sunderland defender Abby Holmes has moved to the Netherland to play.
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Melanie Reay says Sunderland Ladies are “looking forward to the challenge” of the new Women’s Super League season.

The Lady Black Cats launch the 2017-18 season on Sunday at Reading, where they will be looking to carry on from where they left off in the WSL Spring Series.

Sunderland finished dead centre in the table, confounding the sceptics who tipped the side to struggle.

The changes since the end of the Spring Series have been considerable, on and off the park.

Sunderland have left their ground at Hetton to play their home fixtures at Mariners Park in South Shields, with Chelsea their first visitors, on Saturday, September 30 (kick-off 6pm).

They have also left the Academy of Light and will train on Tyneside for the forthcoming campaign which marks the women’s elite league reverting to a winter programme.

The Lady Black Cats have lost one half of their defence following long-term skipper Steph Bannon’s retirement and the decision of Abby Holmes to sign for Dutch team PEC Zwolle.

But Sunderland have been busy in the market with a clutch of signings in all areas on the park, with midfielder Lucy Staniforth the new captain.

They have regained the services of keeper, Rachael Laws, and young forward, Tyler Dodds, following spells at Durham.

Ex-Everton defender Ellie Stewart has joined from Blackburn.

American midfielder Zaneta Wyne has arrived from Icelandic outfit Thor, while Austrian forward Simona Koren has joined from Bundesliga club MSV Duisburg.

Doncaster Rovers midfielder Kasia Lipka completes the transfer activity.

“The girls are looking forward to the challenge,” said Reay. “We’ve made some additions and we’re getting them integrated into the squad.

“The Spring Series went very well and we’ll be looking to use that platform to push on.

“We’ve set ourselves some short-term objectives, we’re not going to look too far ahead.”

Sunderland have been in excellent form in pre-season, stringing together four straight wins against Durham (1-0), Blackburn (4-0), Sheffield (2-0) and Doncaster (2-0).