Ashley Hodson became Liverpool FC Women’s all-time record appearance-maker on Sunday, but she and her teammates were forced to settle for a point against Bristol City as they secured their first clean sheet of the season in a bore draw at Prenton Park.
The Reds created plenty of chances but failed to take them, before captain Niamh Fahey was dismissed with 13 minutes remaining after picking up two yellow cards.
Both teams would end up finishing the game with 10 players, as Brooke Aspin received her marching orders for the Robins after picking up two yellow cards in quick succession in injury time.
Matt Beard named an unchanged side for his first meeting with his former side since parting ways with the Robins in May, with Fahey again occupying a defensive midfield role in the absence of Jade Bailey.
Named on the bench, Hodson was made to wait before she eventually claimed the outright record for most appearances for the club when she replaced Rianna Dean with a quarter of the match remaining – it was the 116th time she has pulled on the shirt for a competitive clash
The Reds started the game brightly, and almost made the breakthrough after just eight minutes. Missy Bo Kearns’ low corner was met by Leanne Kiernan, but the striker was unable to guide the ball on target from close range.
Fahey then picked up her first yellow card for a lunging challenge on Aimee Palmer. The foul presented the visitors an opportunity to have a shot on goal from a free-kick, and Palmer dusted herself down before firing the resulting set-piece straight at Rylee Foster, who was equal to the effort.
Liverpool should have taken the lead 10 minutes before the break with Kiernan spurning a glorious chance. Kearns released the Republic of Ireland international with a perfectly weighted through ball, but she was denied by Fran Bentley, who raced off her line to bravely block Kiernan’s poked shot.
Kearns herself went close to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half time, with her curling shot dipping just over the crossbar as the sides went in level at the break.
Bristol City had a half chance of their own after the restart, with Abi Harrison swivelling in the box before firing into the side netting from a tight angle on the left hand side of the area.
The visitors would once again be grateful to their goalkeeper Bentley on 51 minutes as she was quick off her line to smother at Kiernan’s feet after Charlotte Wardlaw had slipped the ball into her path.
Beard introduced Ashley Hodson off the bench on 66 minutes for a historic appearance as she eclipsed Gemma Bonner’s record and attempted to help the Reds find a way through a stubborn Bristol City rearguard.Embed from Getty Images
Rachel Furness and Yana Daniels were also brought on as the Reds desperately looked for the goal which would surely ensure two victories on the bounce, but things took a turn for the worst on 77 minutes when Fahey received her marching orders.
The Liverpool skipper again slid in on Palmer, and although it looked like she got a touch on the ball it was a high challenge and the referee didn’t hesitate to brandish a second yellow card and reduce the Reds to 10 players.
Bristol City almost made their numerical advantage count, with Harrison’s shot from outside the area whistling just wide of the far post before former Liverpool star Simran Jhamet missed a golden chance to win the game for the Robins.
Melissa Johnson pounced on some hesitancy from Matthews, winning a tussle with the centre-back before laying the ball off to Jhamet, who could only side foot the ball into the side netting from close range, when she really should have at least hit the target.
The drama continued in injury time when the away side were also reduced to 10 players after a moment of madness from Aspin.
She picked up her first yellow card for a scything challenge on Daniels outside the area, and her second arrived just a minute later as she left the wall to charge down and block Kearns’ free-kick with her hand, giving the referee no choice but to send her off.
The Reds were unable to make the second successive free-kick count however, as Kearns curled a shot straight at Bentley right before the referee blew for full time.
Beard will be frustrated at the Reds inability to take the few clear cut chances they were able to carve out against a well organised side, but will be pleased at how they defended when they were reduced to ten players.
On the balance of play a draw was a fair result given the cagey nature of the game, and both sides now have an identical record after three games of one loss, one win and one draw, with the Reds sitting in eighth place in the table.
The loss of Fahey for the next game against Crystal Palace after the international break will give Beard another selection dilemma, especially if Bailey still hasn’t returned to full fitness.
The manager will hope that those who have been selected for international duty will come back unscathed, but with the vast majority of his squad remaining on Merseyside during the break he will use this time on the training pitch to work on the Reds developing a better cutting edge in front of goal.
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