Amber Whiteley secured her second successive win as Reds boss as Liverpool narrowly overcame Crystal Palace 1-0 at Hayes Lane on Sunday.
Niamh Fahey’s second-half header was the difference between the sides, and the result leaves Liverpool in fourth, level on points with Sheffield United above them.
Interim boss Whiteley made two alterations to the side which overcame London Bees last weekend for this Sunday’s trip to the capital. Amy Rodgers and Melissa Lawley were the two main protagonists whose introductions on the hour mark were the catalyst which propelled the Reds to victory at Prenton Park and their return to the starting line-up was therefore justified.
Making way for the duo were Becky Jane, who had scored the opener against the Bees, and Missy Bo Kearns, presumably to give the young Scouser a rest ahead of an intense end to the season.
Rinsola Babajide was once again absent from the squad along with influential midfielder Rachel Furness, who appeared to be missing with a knock.
The Reds – or teals as they were in sunny London on Sunday – almost conceded a horrendous opener just a few minutes in. Liverpool had an error strewn display playing out from the back against the Eagles, with Fahey setting the tone for such a display early on.
Her back pass to Laws in goal was short and Bianca Baptiste, the south London side’s biggest goal threat, nipped in ahead of the goalkeeper, but couldn’t direct her effort on target. This was much to the relief of Fahey, who was evidently enraged at her sloppiness once the ball went out of play.
The Reds registered their first shot on goal on 12 minutes when Lawley cut in from the left after dashing past her marker and fired low effort straight into the arms of Morgan at the near post.
The best chance of the half for Liverpool fell to Ashley Hodson, midway through the first period. Amy Rodgers drove at the heart of the Eagles defence before slipping the ball through to the Reds’ No.14 with an eye-of-the-needle pass, but her weak shot failed to trouble Morgan from just a matter of yards out.
The Reds grew into the game as the half wore on, and had another great opportunity to score an opener 15 minutes before the interval. Linnet capitalised on Palace’s inability to deal with a long ball forward, picking it up just outside the area before racing clear and lifting the ball wide of the far post.
The Reds’ carelessness in possession almost caused problems at the other end once again late in the half, with Natkiel this time flashing a shot off target as Laws was scrambling across to reach it.
Whitely opted to make a change at the break, with Becky Jane coming on in place of Mel Lawley. They had a chance to break the deadlock just one minute into the second period, with Morgan denying Linnett.Embed from Getty Images
Dean Davenport’s team continued to flood forward in numbers when attacking and ask questions of the Reds’ back four, with Stobbs’ looping shot stinging the palms of Laws, who was equal to the strike.
Missy Bo Kearns was introduced with half an hour left to play, and it proved to be another inspired substitution from Whitely, as the 19-year-old grabbed an assist for what proved to be Liverpool’s winner just five minutes after coming on for Amy Rodgers.
Her inswinging corner was met by Fahey at the near post, with the skipper getting across her marker to power home the crucial opening goal.
The Reds were grateful to their goalkeeper Laws for maintaining their one-goal advantage, as she did tremendously well to tip Barton’s rasping volley over the crossbar as Liverpool had failed to properly clear their lines.
A free-flowing move from one box to the other almost culminated in a second goal for the Reds but Hinds’ looping shot was gathered by Morgan at the second attempt, after she had almost spilt it over the line.
They were ultimately forced to settle for just the one goal but, its importance shouldn’t be underestimated in helping the Reds build confidence and the two wins give Whitely and her squad a springboard to string a good run of form together between now and the end of the season.
Back to back clean sheets will also be pleasing for Whitely, as despite looking vulnerable when in possession around their box, they stood firm and restricted Palace to mostly long range efforts.
Their improved squad depth was also on show in abundance once again on Sunday and the Reds will turn their attention to next Sunday’s rearranged fixture with Coventry City at Prenton Park.
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