Liverpool picked up their third league win in a row after a dominant display at Prenton Park on Sunday. A double from captain Niamh Fahey along with goals from Becky Jane, Ceri Holland and Melissa Lawley sealed the victory, which moves the Reds into third place and within seven points of Durham after the Wildcats lost 2-0 to Leicester in a potential promotion-deciding encounter.
Liverpool went into the game on a high after their recent results and produced a performance that conveys confidence is through the roof at the minute and can largely be attributed to Whiteley and the style of football she has attempted to implement since taking the reigns in late January.
The interim boss made two alterations to the side that beat Crystal Palace in London last weekend, with Missy Bo Kearns and Becky Jane coming in for Melissa Lawley and Amy Rodgers. The Reds were again able to name a strong bench, with top scorer Rachel Furness returning amongst the substitutes after missing the game with the Eagles with a slight knock.
Kearns, who was named Standard Chartered Player of the Month for February, played just off Kirsty Linnett with Becky Jane again lining up on the right flank, as Whiteley clearly planned to target Coventry’s lack of pace at the back. The reshuffle led to Rhiannon Roberts dropping into full-back, a position she is comfortable in given that is where she has played the majority of her football for Wales.
Liverpool’s game plan was apparent from the early stages, with Holland and Kearns always looking to feed Jane and Hodson out wide so they could utilise their superior pace and exploit Convetry’s lack of it. It was the visitors who had the first effort at goal, however with Fran Orthodoxou finding space on the right before dragging a shot past the far post.
From that moment on the Reds were in the ascendancy and had an early chance of their own to open the scoring. Holland, who was tremendous throughout drove down the left before crossing for Kearns, but, under pressure from Miles, she couldn’t flick her attempt goalwards.
The young Scouser then assisted the Reds’ first goal of the day which came after 22 minutes. Her dangerous delivery from a corner caused chaos in the Coventry box, and after a scramble, it fell to Fahey who rifled home for her second goal in as many games. The first came last week against Crystal Palace, again from a Kearns corner and lightning struck twice with a similar outcome this weekend, albeit the Irishwoman’s finish this time was much more impressive given the composure she showed to steer it into the roof of the net.
The Reds scored their second just a minute later, having done well to regain possession from Coventry’s kick-off. Holland was again causing problems peeling off to the left. She exchanged passes with Hodson before driving down the wing and whipping the ball into Jane, who had the simplest of finishes to tap home from close range, with the final touch appearing to come off her knee.
The decision to move Jane further forward has proved to be a masterstroke from Whiteley as she netted her second goal in three games, ghosting in from the right-hand side and arriving in the right place at the right time to score. She had the chance for a third just after the half-hour mark but she couldn’t keep her volley down as it sailed over the crossbar after she met Roberts’ cross.
Despite the Reds controlling the game they almost let Coventry back into the game as a result of some slack defending. Toussaint capitalised, dribbling into the box before letting fly, with Laws doing well to deny the former Birmingham player.
It was certainly a warning sign for Liverpool that they shouldn’t rest on their laurels and they came racing out of the blocks after the interval. Kearns threaded the ball through to Holland, but the midfielder hesitated for a split second too long and ended up firing straight at Wood in the Coventry goal, who was equal to the effort.
At the other end, Coventry almost pulled a goal back ten minutes into the half, with Laws again coming to Liverpool’s rescue. Ashlee Brown strode forward from defence, holding off a challenge before slipping in Amber Hughes, who drilled the ball straight down the throat of Laws when she really should have done better.Embed from Getty Images
Coventry were made to pay just two minutes later as Holland atoned for her earlier miss to give the Reds a three-goal cushion. Jane flashed the ball across the front post, and there was Holland, on hand to turn home her third goal since joining Liverpool at the end of January in what has been an inspired piece of business by the Reds.
They were almost caught out a few moments later as a loose ball from Laws presented Stevens with a sight of goal, but the goalkeeper redeemed herself by gathering Stevens’ lobbed effort.
Holland had a chance to double her tally for the day, but smacked the crossbar with a rasping strike from outside the area.
Whitely opted to make a double change on the hour mark, with one of those in Lawley having an immediate impact after being introduced. She got to the byline before cutting the ball back to Linnett, who thumped the ball goalwards, with it taking a deflection making it even more difficult for Wood, pulled off a superb save to tip it behind.
She was powerless to prevent Fahey from scoring the Reds’ fourth on 67 minutes, as she swept home from Kearns’ low delivery to net her second of the game.
Lawley rounded off the scoring, getting on the end of Holland’s cut back to divert the ball into the net from close range. There was still time for the Reds to conjure up one more clear cut opportunity with Furness, who came on for the final fifteen minutes, lifting the ball over the crossbar after a superb team move in the final minute.
The game ended 5-0 and was no more than what the Reds deserved after such an assured performance. Three successive wins and three successive clean sheets will be hugely pleasing to Whiteley, and whilst their promotion hopes are all but over after Leicester’s win they have a chance to make a late surge up the table and finish as high as second.
There are positive signs that the foundations have been laid for a real promotion tilt next season, especially given how well they’ve performed in the absence of arguably their best player Rinsola Babajide. Whiteley is certainly in with a shout of being the woman to spearhead it after transforming Liverpool’s fortunes since she took over.
The Reds are next in action in a fortnight’s time when they take on Blackburn in an evening kick-off at Prenton Park.
Don’t miss a thing
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It’s free!