Beth Mead struck twice as Sunderland beat Watford in the FA Cup. Picture credit: Jodie Minter

Picture credit: Jodie Minter

Sunderland Ladies came from behind to start their 2016 season with a 1-1 draw against newly-promoted Reading FC Women.

The Lady Black Cats, who finished fourth last season, fell behind to Lois Roche’s deflected strike just before half-time before Beth Mead equalised minutes after the break.

Reading began their season on Wednesday evening with a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal, and showed signs of a hangover as the hosts began brightest.

After Abbey Joice fired narrowly wide, Reading stopper Grace Moloney had to be at her best to tip over a powerful Brooke Chaplen drive.

Chances continued to flow for Sunderland, with Moloney again thwarting the hosts as she tipped Mead’s header around the post.

The Royals did, however, look lively on the break with summer signing Jade Boho-Sayo causing a nuisance.

And it was a foul on the Equatorial Guinea international that handed Reading the lead, with Roche’s resulting free-kick finding the back of the net, perhaps via a deflection from a Sunderland player.

Carlton Fairweather clearly wasn’t happy with his side’s performance, bringing on Emma Kelly and Keira Ramshaw at the break.

His changes had an immediate effect, with the Lady Black Cats back level after only two minutes of the second half.

A fine through ball set Mead free, and she rounded Moloney for a simple finish.

And Mead, the FA WSL’s top scorer in 2015, almost has a second moments later as she burst into the box and poked under Moloney, only to see a defender recover to hack it off the line as she wheeled away to celebrate.

The torrential rain was making it difficult for both sides, with chances at a premium.

Both goalkeepers were called into action late on, however, with Rachael Laws tipping over from Roche before Moloney did well to parry a Ramshaw effort.

Despite some late pressure, the hosts were unable to find a winner and were forced to settle for a point.