There’s no other way to say it - Liverpool Women’s return to the FA WSL has been rough. A lot of the results haven’t gone how anyone has wanted, and there’s been injuries to vital positions that have hindered the squad.
There is probably no one that realizes that better than Matt Beard. The Women lost another match this past weekend, this time to Manchester City, and while their progress in the Continental Tyres Cup is keeping them afloat, this time in the league is not panning out.
“It’s been a tough start to the season for us, no doubt about it with the teams we have come up against,” Beard wrote in his weekly column.
“If I look back on the recent games, Arsenal, we did OK; Tottenham, second half we played very well and got nothing; and to lose 2-1 at Manchester City was gutting really, because I think we deserved a point at least, and I was gutted for the girls as well because I do think we deserved something out of it.
“But, unfortunately, they took their chances when they arose, we had two really good chances in the game and didn’t take them. That’s part and parcel of the game but I think we can take a lot of heart from the performance at City.”
There is the distinct feeling that a breakthrough is coming. Those performances have been more unlucky than anything else, to not be able to finish our chances, when we are finally starting to make them again. If the Reds can start to finally make something of those chances, they might have a shot at turning the season around.
“The key thing and my message now is we have got a run of games between now and Christmas which will define our season,” Beard continued.
“There will be a little bit of pressure on us. But in saying that, if we perform like we have been in the last two-and-a-half games then I’m sure we will be OK.”
One of the positives of the weekend was that Shanice van de Sanden returned in red against Manchester City after suffering an injury that stalled the start of her season, and so the obvious hope is that the goals will come with her. With a lot of important games between now and the holiday break, a win has to come through.
“The great thing for us is we have Shanice van de Sanden available again and it was great to get her back out on the pitch with some minutes last Sunday,” the manager added.
“Shanice is a great option for us and can make a big difference with her pace. She made an unbelievable recovery for us defensively when Lawsy [Rachael Laws] made that great save. Not only is Shanice a talented player, she is great for the dressing room as well because she is a great person.
“She has worked incredibly hard to get back because three or four weeks ago we were unsure when she would be back. She got her head down, worked hard, and our medical team have done a great job so we are really pleased to get her back.”
Unfortunately, as is the Liverpool way, for every positive there is a drawback and that came with the news on Thursday that midfielder Ceri Holland will be missing for at least four weeks after sustaining a groin injury. Her presence in the middle of the pitch will be sorely missed, but Beard - while down - is not entirely out.
“Unfortunately, we lost Ceri Holland in the warm-up before we kicked off against Manchester City. She had a little problem and she felt something at the end of the warm-up right before kick-off,” Beard wrote.
“That was a blow for us because Ceri has been excellent for us but I thought Furney [Rachel Furness] came in and did well, and the players adjusted well and we responded well. We’ll have to assess Ceri now and see if she can be available for the weekend.”
(Narrator voice: she will not be available).
At least there is the flipside of Katie Stengel hitting her stride in the league. The American scored against Manchester City over the weekend, living up to her nickname of Katie StenGOAL against a defensively tough team, and earning praise from the manager as he looked ahead to the weekend’s match.
“Katie Stengel scored her fourth goal of the season at City and I thought she was immense for us and led the line really well,” the manager continued
“Katie is a fantastic talent and she caused them a lot of problems. Alex Greenwood certainly knew she was in a game playing against her, and I was pleased she got on the scoresheet again.
“On Sunday we are back at Prenton Park when we host Aston Villa in the WSL and it will be great to get back out in front of our supporters again. It’s going to be an interesting game. They had a great start to the season and they’ve had a few negative results. Knowing Carla Ward as I do, they will certainly be up for this game and they have got a talented team. They made a lot of changes in the summer and it takes a little bit of time, probably similar to us a bit, and it’s a game we are looking forward to.
“Rachel Daly was a great signing in the summer for Aston Villa. She is scoring goals and we will have to watch her. I managed Rachel at West Ham and you’ve seen what she can do for England and now with Villa.
“I was in America with the Boston Breakers when she was playing for Houston so I saw what she did there. She is a fantastic talent, a great player and she is having an outstanding season for Villa.”
As always, Beard is taking it one match a time, even with five league matches left between now and the holiday break, and a couple more Continental Cup matches thrown in there too. The hard work will come from being consistent and make the most of the chances they have.
“We’ve got five league games between now and Christmas, plus a couple of Continental Tyres Cup games as well, and we are looking for some consistency and hopefully we can turn these good performances into points,” Beard finished.
The Red Women play on Sunday November 6 at Prenton Park, hosting aforementioned Rachel Daly and Aston Villa. The match will be available to stream everywhere on the FA Player app.