Liverpool FC Women face off against Lewes at Prenton Park on Sunday, hoping to get back to winning ways to finish a difficult campaign on a high.
The Reds have not tasted defeat in five games after last weekend’s draw with Blackburn Rovers. They will however, have been frustrated that they didn’t come away with all three points in dreadful conditions in the evening encounter.
They were far from their best on Sunday, but still carved out enough opportunities to win the game. They were eventually left to rue squandering their limited chances and the result left Amber Whiteley’s side a distant 12 points off leaders Leicester with just three league games remaining.
Even the prospect of catching Durham in second seems a long shot. The Wildcats aren’t in action this weekend, but sit seven points above Liverpool in the table, having drawn with Sheffield United last Sunday.
The Reds need to win against Lewes, and then beat the Blades and London City in their remaining fixtures to keep their slim hopes of drawing level with Sanders’ side alive. They must also hope Durham slip up again in their final two fixtures against Charlton and Coventry United, to have any chance of finishing second, which seems an unlikely outcome.
This weekend’s game will be another difficult test for the Reds, with Lewes flying high in fifth place in the Championship table having extended their own undefeated run to five games with a narrow 2-1 victory over London Bees at the Dripping Pan.
Megan Mackey scored the winner with a superb lob and the Republic of Ireland midfielder will be one to watch on Sunday as she represents one of Lewes’ biggest threats going forward.
There are ominous parallels to be drawn between Lewes and Blackburn ahead of Liverpool facing off against the Rooks, as they, like Blackburn also managed to hold the Reds to a draw in their previous encounter earlier in the season.
Amalie Threstrup had opened the scoring for Liverpool before Katie Rood equalised for Lewes. Rinsola Babajide restored the Reds’ advantage before Ellie Hack’s goal pegged Vicky Jepson’s team back once again and they had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Much has changed for Liverpool since then, not least the two goalscorers that day. Danish striker Threstrup has largely been used off the bench under interim boss Whiteley as she continues to adapt to the demands of English football, whilst Babajide has been exiled from the first team squad after refusing to train.
Liverpool have coped well in her absence with new signing Ceri Holland and youngster Missy Bo Kearns stepping up to the plate by providing assists and goals.
Scouser Kearns nabbed Liverpool’s opener on Sunday with a neat finish, as she continues to cement her place in the middle of the park as one of the first names on the team sheet and a rising star in the women’s game.
Whiteley will certainly have drilled into her side the importance of clearing your lines in training this week, given Liverpool’s inability to do so cost them dearly on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see if she decides to name an unchanged starting XI this weekend, as whilst Liverpool looked tired towards the end, the overall shape and balance of the team against Blackburn was pleasing to see.Embed from Getty Images
The midfield trio of Bailey, Holland and Kearns worked really well, with Bailey, the deepest of the three stopping Blackburn attacks before progressing play by feeding Holland and Kearns. They were given license to drive forward and link play further upfield, as well as make late lung bursting runs into the box to get on the end of crosses, as Kearns did for her goal.
Rachel Furness was restored to the starting lineup as a central striker and caused problems for the opposition defence as well as holding the ball up and bringing others into play.
Liverpool seemed to lose a bit of attacking impetus once she and Kearns were taken off as Whiteley’s substitutions, for once couldn’t help swing the game in the Reds’ favour.
Melissa Lawley was favoured on the left wing over Ashley Hodson, despite Hodson arguably being one of Liverpool’s biggest attacking threats in recent weeks, with her and Holland’s combinations wrecking havoc for opposition defenders.
There is no doubting Lawley’s quality, but she wasn’t at her dazzling best before being withdrawn late in the game. She now has a real battle on her hands to nail down a starting birth in the side, as in recent games she has often looked better placed coming off the bench to inject some pace and trickery against tiring opposition.
Rylee Foster, who this week put pen to paper on a new long term deal, looks set to retain her place between the sticks as number one Rachel Laws continues her recovery from injury.
The goalkeeper didn’t have much to do in the game as she was powerless to prevent Roberts steering the ball into her own goal.
The experiment of playing Becky Jane as a right winger has paid dividends, with her and Roberts behind her forming a great partnership on the right hand side for Liverpool.
One anticipates she will again start further upfield as the Reds look to race out of the blocks early and get on the front foot from kick off, something which they were unable to do against Blackburn.
With almost a full bill of health the Reds are well stocked on the bench if Whiteley feels they need a change, with the likes of Rodgers, Linnett and Threstrup keen to impress and force their way back into contention for featuring from the start.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool have still yet to make an announcement on who will be taking charge of the club next year, but there is no doubting that many of these players are already playing for their future.
Maintaining the unbeaten run until the end of the season is therefore imperative for many to aid the causes of remaining on Merseyside beyond the current campaign.
It will certainly be an interesting encounter with the two form teams in the league putting their recent unbeaten streaks on the line.
Liverpool’s game against Lewes kicks off at 12pm at Prenton Park on Sunday and is available to stream live on the Reds’ official YouTube channel.
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