Liverpool FC Women are back in action on Sunday, aiming to extend their unbeaten run to four games as they entertain Coventry United at Prenton Park.
The game was originally scheduled to take place last month, but was postponed due to a frozen pitch. The cancellation of that fixture seems to have benefited the Reds in the longer term however, as it gave Amber Whiteley an extra week on the training pitch to stamp her authority on the team.
This was clear during last weekend’s game with Crystal Palace as, whilst the Reds were sloppy in possession, they restricted the Eagles to efforts from outside the area. They are also aided by the fact they have one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Rachael Laws between the sticks each week.
The 30-year-old was called into action a number of times on Sunday, pulling off a terrific fingertip save to turn Barton’s goal-bound effort over the crossbar and earn the Reds a crucial win.
With leaders Leicester facing off against fellow promotion hopefuls Durham in a mouth watering encounter on Sunday, the Reds know they must seize an opportunity to gain ground on the two teams, by winning against Coventry.
Both the Foxes and the Wildcats hold a 10-point advantage over the Reds, with Durham having played a game more. If Liverpool can overcome Coventry and the spoils are shared between Leicester and Durham, Amber Whiteley’s side will move to within eight points of top two with four games remaining.
Although it’s unlikely they could claw back such a deficit, especially given Liverpool’s tough run in, stranger things have happened…
Irrespective of other results however, Liverpool must first navigate their way past Coventry and this will be no easy task when one considers the last meeting between the two sides in October.
The Reds, then managed by Vicky Jepson, ran out 2-1 winners, courtesy of goals from Melissa Lawley and Amalie Threstrup, on her first start for the club since joining from Roma.
They dominated the majority of the game but Becky Anderson pulled one back for the hosts in the second period to set up a tense finale. Liverpool however, as they did on Sunday against Crystal Palace, managed to grind out the victory on the road.
Coventry, under Jay Bradford currently occupy 10th in the table, two points ahead of bottom side London Bees, with two games in hand, having endured a retched campaign.Embed from Getty Images
United have won just three games all season, but one of those came last weekend as they overcame London City 1-0 thanks to a stunning long range strike from Hayley Crackle to end their nine-game losing streak.
They come into the encounter with the Reds having been boosted by a win and clean sheet which moves them closer to Charlton who are one point above them in the table.
One thing that was evident in their game on Sunday was their lack of pace across the back line. London City pumped long ball after long ball forward and their striker was able to race onto it with ease each time before squandering the chance to score.
United’s midfielder Becky Anderson was deputising at centre back for that game, and may well retain her place after helping Bradford’s side keep their first clean sheet of the campaign.
The Reds will be licking their lips at facing Coventry’s leaky defence, especially the prospect of the likes of Hodson, Lawley and Kearns using their pace to make darting runs in behind to latch onto lofted balls forward from Fahey and Moore.
They will be wary of the fact that Bradford’s team have pushed those sides near the top of the table close this season. They have lost by a single goal margin to the Reds, Blackburn and Durham, falling to a 4-3 defeat to the last of the three.
Amy Rodgers and Melissa Lawley started last weekend’s encounter in London after their impressive cameos the previous week against London Bees, but both were withdrawn in the second half for Missy-Bo Kearns and Becky Jane. The two substitutes were lively when they came off the bench, with Kearns providing the assists for Niamh Fahey’s match-winning goal and so they are in contention to win back their places in the starting XI.
Reverting to the personnel and formation which was key to the Reds beating London Bees may aid Liverpool, with Jane deployed as a winger given the aforementioned lack of pace of Coventry’s defence.Embed from Getty Images
There has been no update on Rachel Furness’ fitness after she missed the game against Crystal Palace. Rinsola Babajide will likely be absent once again as she continues to seek a move away from the club.
Ceri Holland, who has been nominated for February’s player of the month award after her stellar start to her Liverpool campaign, should retain her place in midfield along with Jade Bailey, who has been in good form since returning from injury.
The mood around the club has certainly been lifted by the two recent wins, and the Reds will be keen to channel the confidence generated by those victories into their performance on Sunday to ensure they pick up a third win on the trot.
If they do manage to keep up their good form until the end of the season, regardless if they can secure promotion or not, Whitely will certainly be in contention to take over on a permanent basis, and few could argue it wouldn’t be a good choice.
Sunday’s game kicks off at 2pm at Prenton Park and you can follow all the action on Liverpool’s YouTube channel where the match is being streamed.
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