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Beard Report: “We Learned A Lot Of Lessons In The First Half Of The Season”

Liverpool Women manager Matt Beard heaps praise on the squad for their vital win against Manchester City.

Liverpool FC v Manchester City - Barclays Women’s Super League Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

After a rough start to the season, Liverpool Women are securely midtable as we round the corner towards the end. That alone is reason to celebrate, but with the added sprinkling of a win over Manchester City? Start the party. Manager Matt Beard had nothing but good things to say about this squad in his weekly column, writing high praise for the players and their accomplishments off the back of a tough week.

“It was a fantastic day for us on Sunday and I thought it was a good team performance. It was a tough week and a long week heading into the game against City, with a poor start and a great end to it,” Beard wrote.

“Considering we’ve had three games in eight days and didn’t get back from London until 4am on Thursday, I thought we were outstanding, especially that 20, 25-minute period we had at the start of the second half.

“There are so many positives that have come out of the back end of this week that we can be really proud of, and both goals on Sunday came from what we had rehearsed in training.”

The hard work the women have put in throughout the season really is starting to pay off, despite the injuries that have plagued them all year. Changes were made and there were some pains that came with that, but every change has proven to make them stronger in the long run. Every part of the squad has been instrumental in getting to this point, and Beard made sure we all knew it.

“We can obviously only pick an XI, plus the substitutes, but everybody played a part this week and had a massive input and impact, so I just want to make sure that they all get the credit that they deserve as well,” the manager explained.

“Missy Bo Kearns got the winning goal for us and I was delighted for her – that’s now five goals for her this season. Both Bo and Ceri Holland have got forward a lot into some great positions and that has happened since we brought Fuka Nagano into the club.

“If you look at that second goal, Ceri received the ball over the other side of the field, a big switch, Bo helps it on to Emma [Koivisto], and then Bo finishes it. If you look at Emma’s starting position, she was level with Razza [Rhiannon Roberts] on the edge of our penalty area, and then within five to six seconds, two or three passes, she is on the attack outside their box. We were really pleased with that goal.

“Missy Bo has had a fantastic second half of the season for us. Her and Ceri, as I said, have a lot more freedom now since Fuka has come in and I also think Miri Taylor did a good job in Fuka’s absence at Chelsea. Ceri and Missy Bo have more freedom a bit higher up the pitch – they are both creative players.”

One of the brightest additions to the squad has been Fuka Nagano, who joined the Reds in the January transfer window from North Carolina Courage. Her ability to play multiple roles within the midfield has been a delight to watch since she’s joined, and has made a lot of the success in this latter half of the season possible, even with some obstacles.

“Fuka was excellent and put in some great challenges for us, showing another side to her game. If I go back to the Leicester match where we weren’t good enough, Fuka never had the chance to put that right because she missed the Chelsea game due to injury, so I just think maybe that was her way of showing her commitment after what was a bad day,” Beard continued.

“But she has got that competitiveness and that’s what we liked about her when we watched her and we watched clips of her playing for Japan. She reads the game well, she can step in. We had her in better positions against City but she’s still learning and there’s still a language barrier, so she’s still learning the principles of our defending and what’s expected.

“So, from that perspective, it’s going to take her time and it’s really going to take her a pre-season. She’s obviously going to miss part of that due to the World Cup, but she’s bright, she’s intelligent and she gets stuck in well.”

While the first half of the season may have been rough with loads of dropped points and a couple disappointing losses, Beard is choosing to look at it from the glass half full point of view. Something to improve on, as opposed to something to dwell on.

“We learned a lot of lessons in the first half of the season and in the second half of the season we have performed well. We have had a lot of adversity in terms of personnel missing through injury, but we’ve come through that really well and we’ve now got two games to go and we are on 22 points. We can be really pleased and proud with that, and there are still six points up for grabs,” the manager said.

Those lessons learned also came with bringing some experience back to the squad, with the signings of former players like Gemma Bonner and Natasha Dowie, in addition to Shanice van de Sanden. Dowie in particular was able to break a club record this week, becoming the first Women’s player to score 20 WSL goals for the club.

“I was absolutely delighted for Natasha Dowie to score and become the first Liverpool player to score 20 goals in the Barclays Women’s Super League. You can’t afford to give Tats opportunities like that,” Beard continued.

“I’m pleased for her to get the record. She’s had to be patient with the hamstring injury she had after coming back to the club but she’s been a breath of fresh air, to be honest with you. She is great in the dressing room, she is very experienced and she is passing that on to the players, so I was really pleased for her and it’s good for her to get another goal in a Liverpool shirt.”

This weekend is a time for the women to rest, with no games scheduled due to the Women’s FA Cup final, and it couldn’t come at a better time for some of the players. With a long list still injured and needing more training before they’re able to fully rejoin the squad, the added rest days could be vital in these last weeks of the season.

“We’ve got a blank weekend with no games coming up due to the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final, but I’m quite pleased about that for once. This break has come at the right time for so many different reasons,” Beard agreed.

“I want to wish Melissa Lawley well because she had an operation on her hip last Tuesday. It was quite a complex operation and she will face a lengthy time on the sidelines. Yana Daniels trained on Saturday but then felt something on Sunday, so that’s why she had to drop out of the squad. So, this break gives us an opportunity to get Yana, Leanne Kiernan and Niamh Fahey sharp again.

“Leanne and Niamh were on the bench on Sunday. Leanne is doing really well in training and the great thing with her is it doesn’t look like she has been away. Sometimes when you’ve had the type of injury that she has had and the length of time she has been out, you can lose that sharpness – but she was flying in training the other day.

“We need to get Niamh back on the pitch for her World Cup selection and also give Leanne that opportunity of making it as well. With us being safe in this division now, we can definitely do that.”

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