Liverpool FA Women were forced to settle for a point as they drew 1-1 with a stubborn Blackburn side on a frustrating evening at a rain-soaked Prenton Park.
Missy Bo Kearns had edged the Reds in front in a tightly fought first half with a great strike, before an own goal from Rhiannon Roberts drew Rovers level in the second period. Liverpool failed to convert their dominance in possession into creating clear cut chances.
The result leaves the Reds in third, seven points behind second-placed Durham with a game in hand, after the Wildcats also drew with Sheffield United yesterday.
Liverpool will look at their inability to grind out a victory last night as a missed opportunity to close the gap on Durham and they are now forced to look nervously over their shoulder, with Sheffield United now level on points with the Reds.
It is the second time this season that Liverpool have drawn with Blackburn, testament to the visitors dogged determination to defend for their lives throughout the game.
Amber Whiteley made a raft of changes to the side who eased past Coventry United 5-0 over a fortnight ago. Reliable goalkeeper Rachel Laws was ruled out with a muscle injury so Canada international Rylee Foster came in to make her first league start for the Reds, over a year after sealing her switch to Merseyside.
Kirsty Linnett and Ash Hodson also dropped out with Mel Lawley and Rachel Furness returning to the starting XI, the latter lining up as the focal point of the Reds attack as a striker and Becky Jane once again deployed as a right winger.
Liverpool almost raced into an early lead through Furness, with only a minute on the clock. The Northern Ireland international rose highest to meet an incoming cross, but her header was deflected behind when it looked to be creeping in at the back post.
It was Blackburn who started the brighter of the two sides after that early chance however, with their high press causing Liverpool problems, as they surrendered possession far too easily on a number of occasions.
It was a cagey opening with neither side able to keep hold of the ball for long spells and Liverpool had to wait until the 17th minute to carve open another meaningful chance.
A fast flowing team move ended with Furness slipping in the onrushing Jane, who had burst infield to get involved with play. The converted winger took a touch before taking aiming, but her shot was weak and straight at Brooks in the Blackburn goal, who was mightily relieved to see the ball nestle into her arms as the Reds squandered a golden chance to take the lead.
The weather conditions didn’t help either side in the opening half hour, where chances were at a premium as the rain continued to pour down.
Liverpool eventually took the lead ten minutes from the break through a moment of magic from Kearns. Holland broke down the left and delivered a teasing cross into the box, which was missed by Furness.
It then fell to Kearns and she showed great feet to dance past two Blackburn defenders before firing low into the bottom corner, giving Brooks no chance.
Only resolute defending from Blackburn prevented the Reds from doubling their lead four minutes later as Bailey and Holland both had thunderous long range efforts charged down and blocked by Rovers’ defenders as Liverpool went in at the break with just the one goal advantage.Embed from Getty Images
They were pegged back just after the hour mark in the second half as a result of a slow start after the interval.
The Reds failed to properly clear their lines after a corner and substitute Walters, who had been introduced just seconds earlier picked up the pieces, drilling in a cross which Roberts stabbed into her own net for Rovers’ equaliser, under pressure from Hughes.
That goal seemed to be the wake up call Liverpool needed as they sparked into life, with a flurry of opportunities in a five minute spell after being pegged back.
Brooks did well to get a vital touch to punch clear Kearns’ inswinging corner with a number of Liverpool players queueing up to tap home.
Ceri Holland then went close to adding to her tally of three goals since her move to Liverpool on 65 minutes. Lawley threaded the ball through Furness and she cleverly flicked it into the path of Holland, but the midfielder, on the stretch, couldn’t turn it home.
Full back Hinds’ rasping effort was deflected into the arms of Brooks before Kearns missed a gilt edged chance to net her and Liverpool’s second.
Holland had released the scouser with an eye of the needle pass, but Kearns’ first touch was loose on the wet surface and ball skidded away from her as she attempted to prod home from close range. She consequently let out a yelp of frustration as the Reds were left to rue their wastefulness in the few chances they did have.
Blackburn had a huge opportunity of their own to win the game with just fifteen minutes remaining. Saffron Jordan drove into the box, but, bearing down on goal blazed her shot over the crossbar.
Whiteley then made a number of substitutions to try and win the game, bringing on the fresh legs of Hodson, Linnett and Rodgers in place of Lawley, Furness and Linnett.Embed from Getty Images
They were unable to inspire the Reds however as game fizzled out in the final ten minutes, with Blackburn dropping deeper and deeper, happy to settle for a point and Liverpool pushing, but ultimately running out of steam in their quest to score a late winner.
Whilst disappointed with the result and performance given they had numerous chances to win it, the draw stretches the Reds’ unbeaten run to five games, their most consistent run of the campaign to date.
The great performances of Kearns, Holland and Foster on her debut, as well as the return to full fitness of Furness, were all positive signs to take from a rare off day for the Reds who appeared laboured by the end of the game as fatigue appears to be creeping in.
They must now shift their focus to preparations for next Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off against Lewes, where they will be hoping to rectify errors made against Rovers to ensure they take home all three points.
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