Monday 26 May 2014

Mid Season Review 2014

 After 1,122 miles, 9 games, 16 goals and a lot of chanting, welcome to @LFCladiesfans Mid Season Review! 

 Including: Fixtures & Results, Attendances & Goals, WSL, The FA Cup, Continental Cup, '... of the Season so far' Awards and Development Squad Season Review.

Liverpool fixtures & results

13/04/14 (a) Sunderland Ladies     W 2 - 0     The FA Cup   attendance 308
17/04/14 (h) Manchester City     W 1 - 0     WSL   attendance 1572
20/04/14 (a) Chelsea Ladies     D 0 - 0     WSL   attendance 503
26/04/14 (h) Everton Ladies     L 2 - 0     The FA Cup   attendance 824
30/04/14 (h) Everton Ladies     D 0 - 0     Continental Cup   attendance 770
03/05/14 (h) Sunderland Ladies     W 6 - 0     Continental Cup   attendance 403
14/05/14 (a) Manchester City     L 2 - 1     Continental Cup   attendance 746
18/05/14 (a) Notts County Ladies     D 0 - 0     WSL   attendance 1071
24/05/14 (h) Birmingham City     D 1 - 1     WSL   attendance 477

click the team name above to read the match report from each game

Liverpool Ladies at Manchester City away
credit: @justaballgame

W 3 /  D 4  / L 2

Total attendances: 6,674
Average attendance: 742
Average home attendance: 809 (1,024 WSL games) 

The average home attendance of 809 is a massive increase on the average attendance at the midway point last season, which stood at 478 for games played in Widnes. It is however a slight drop on the average attendance at the end of the season, which was 861. (This figure does rise to 965 if you include the semi-final at Anfield.)

The average home attendance for WSL games at Select Stadium is 1,024, with teams like Arsenal Ladies, Chelsea Ladies and a league derby yet to come this figure should hopefully rise and it is a great number to build on going into the next round of games.

Liverpool goal scorers

Natasha Dowie   6   vs Sunderland x 4, Manchester City x 2
Martha Harris   1   vs Sunderland
Gemma Davison   1   vs Sunderland
Corina Schroder   1   vs Sunderland
Katrin Omarsdottir   1   vs Sunderland
Fara Williams   1   vs Birmingham City  

 Liverpool Ladies have scored 11 goals so far this season, conceding just 5. Libby Stout has kept 4 clean sheets from 6 appearances, Danielle Gibbons has 2 clean sheets in 3 starts and 1 from a substitute appearance at Chelsea.

 Natasha Dowie is of course Liverpool's top scorer, Dowie now has 25 goals in 30 appearances overall for the reds.

Natasha Dowie scored a hat-trick against Sunderland
credit: @Girlsontheball

FA Women's Super League

W 1 /  D 3 /  L 0

 Liverpool Ladies began their title defence with a 1-0 home victory over league newcomers Manchester City on Thursday 17th April. Attacking from the opening whistle, Kate Longhurst opened the scoring after closing down Andie Worrall in the first-half however the referee controversially ruled the goal out for handball. 

 Following this Liverpool lost their composure slightly, allowing Manchester City into the game a bit more while still maintaining control with the majority of the possession. New number 1 Libby Stout produced a fantastic performance between the posts, saving well from Toni Duggan twice in the second half.

 Well into the second half last season's WSL Golden Boot winner Natasha Dowie opened her league account for 2014 with a well-taken goal, Lucy Bronze picking her out with a great ball forward from centre-back. 

 Four days later on Sunday 20th April came Liverpool's first away league game of the campaign, against an impressive Chelsea Ladies side that boasts an intimidating front three of Ji So-Yun, Yuki Ogimi and Eni Oluko.  

pre-game huddle at Chelsea away
credit: @Girlsontheball

 Ashley Hodson did well for Liverpool after replacing Kate Longhurst midway through the first half due to injury, the development squad striker linking well with Natasha Dowie

 A second forced substitution seen Danielle Gibbons replace Libby Stout in goal, Gibbons with a couple of important saves just before a late scare when Aluko sent her strike wide of the post after going through on goal; the game finishing 0-0.

 Liverpool then had to wait almost a month for their next league game, Notts County away on Sunday 18th May coming after 4 cup games and an international break. 

 Despite scoring 7 in their last two games Liverpool couldn't break Notts County down, the game saw few attempts on goal from either side, also finishing 0-0, yet it was Notts with the majority of attacking play - the reds defence coming under immense pressure particularly during a tense 10 minutes in the second half where Liverpool's attempts to control the game just seemed to further invite the home side to press high up the pitch and try to catch the visitors off guard.

 Gemma Bonner put in a good shift at centre-back, chasing every ball and dealing well with the threat of Jess Clarke and Desiree Scott

 The final game before the mid season break seen Liverpool entertain Birmingham City Ladies at home on Saturday 24th May, being held by the in-form City 1-1.

 A dubious penalty decision against Libby Stout seen her concede her first league goal this season, with Karen Carney sending the reds stopper the wrong way.

 Liverpool drew level through a penalty themselves in the second half, Fara Williams coolly finishing from the spot after Hannah Dale was fouled in the box.

 The point earned means everything is still there to play for in the second half of the season, Liverpool are just 2 points off league leaders Birmingham City with 10 games to play.

Liverpool's back line, Easton, Bonner, Bronze, Schroder
credit: @SupportHerApp

The FA Cup

W 1 / D 0 / L 1

 Having reached the semi-final of this competition last season, Liverpool Ladies were hoping to go one step further in 2014. 

 Starting brightly with a 2-0 victory away at Sunderland Ladies on Sunday 13th April despite losing Amanda Da Costa to injury in the warm-up and being forced into an early tactical change.

 Kate Longhurst worked hard on the wing brilliantly setting up Martha Harris for the opener; Longhurst was also involved in the build up for the second after Sunderland failed to clear her strike, Natasha Dowie finishing from just yards to double the reds lead.

 This win set up a quarter-final with Merseyside rivals Everton Ladies, on Saturday 26th April the first derby of the season enticed a crowd of 824 spectators who watched as Liverpool crashed out the cup following a great first-half performance from the blues.

 Nikita Parris struck the first goal after racing past Gemma Bonner into the box, Alex Greenwood doubling Everton's lead just before half-time following a corner.

 Everton Ladies have since beaten Notts County in their semi-final, progressing to the final where they will face Arsenal Ladies on Sunday 1st June. Liverpool U17s also play the same day, they have their cup final against Everton U17s at 1pm which will be followed by The FA Cup final kicking off at 4:30pm. 

Claudia Walker & Natasha Dowie
credit: @SupportHerApp

Continental Cup

W 1 / D 1 / L 1

 Just four days after defeat to Everton in The FA Cup, Liverpool hosted their rivals yet again - this time in the Continental Cup on Wednesday 30th April

 Liverpool began this game much better, quickly seeking to win and retain possession with Everton seeming content to sit back and defend, attempting to catch the reds on the counter attack and utilise the pace of Nikita Parris.

 Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze effectively dealt with Parris this time around, frustrating the young striker and limiting both her options and attempts on goal.

 Everton also defended well, Natasha Dowie's cross to Claudia Walker well cut out by Gabby George. Walker also seen a late strike tipped over the bar by the Everton keeper, while Corina Schroder hit the crossbar in the first-half. The game finished 0 - 0.

 On Saturday 3rd May, after 3 games with no goals for Liverpool, the reds welcomed title winning keeper Rachael Laws and Sunderland Ladies to Select Stadium. Laws did not start as Liverpool ran rampant, putting 6 past the black cats.

 The ever-impressive Gemma Davison opened the scoring with her first goal since her winter move from Arsenal Ladies, an excellent goal from outside the 18-yard box. Davison then turned provider for the following goal, putting a cross across the face of goal for Corina Schroder to score the second.

 Natasha Dowie then bagged herself a hat-trick; the first headed home from a Fara Williams corner, the second a fantastic move after turning with the ball and finishing from just inside the box and the third another brilliant finish - this time with her left foot. 

 Katrin Omarsdottir rounded off the scoring after scrambling the ball home from close range.

Danielle Gibbons, Corina Schroder, Gemma Bonner & Lucy Bronze defend a corner vs Everton
credit: @Girlsontheball

 Following a short international break for the World Cup Qualifiers, the Continental Cup action resumed as Liverpool travelled to Manchester City on Wednesday 14th May, picking up their second defeat of the year with a 2-1 loss.

 City - much like Everton in The FA Cup - piled pressure on Liverpool early on, Toni Duggan's header going out wide for a cross to be swung in and cleared only as far as Abbie McManus. McManus finishing well from distance past Libby Stout, on her first start since return from injury.

 Natasha Dowie equalised for the reds, heading Gemma Davison's cross into the back of the net. Dowie scoring her 25th goal in a Liverpool shirt on her 28th appearance

 Minutes later Katrin Omarsdottir almost put Liverpool in front - her strike was blocked by Steph Houghton and the follow-up from Claudia Walker also hit the England captain. 

 Manchester City retook the lead through Izzy Christianson shortly after half-time, while a positive for Liverpool in the second half was the return of Martha Harris who has missed most of the season so far through injury.

 Liverpool have two Continental Cup group games remaining, away at Durham on Sunday 6th July and at home to Doncaster Belles on Saturday 12th July. There are 3 groups of 6 in the group stages, the winner of each will progress to the semi-finals joined by the best runner-up.

Liverpool prepare to defend an Everton free kick
credit: @Girlsontheball

'... of the Season so far' Awards!

Player of the Season so far

At the midway point of the season last year, fans of Liverpool Ladies nominated Louise Fors as their Player of the Season so far, with the Swedish winger producing a number of eye-catching displays as the reds went on a goal scoring rampage to the top of the league. 

This season, other than when facing Sunderland Ladies, goals have been few and far between and the Liverpool defence has come under pressure. The stand out player amongst the brilliant back four has been Becky Easton and Becky has been voted as POTSSF by fans on twitter and on facebook.

Walking in an Easton wonderland
credit: @SupportHerApp

 Becky Easton has started all but one game this season for Liverpool Ladies, the defensive shuffle at the back meaning Lucy Bronze moved into centre-back has given her an opportunity to make the right-back spot her own and she has done so with ease. 

 Provides cover on the right-wing when Davison cuts in, Easton is tough in the tackle and solid at the back under pressure. Has also played at centre-back this year; at Notts County away when Liverpool needed to alter their game plan, Easton moved to partner captain Gemma Bonner with Lucy Bronze moving out wide. For the following game at home to Birmingham City, Becky also started at centre-back proving a versatile defender before finishing the game back at right-back.

 Vastly experienced in the world of women's football, she is also a player that the youngsters now coming into the squad can look up to and aspire to having a career as long and decorated as hers - and still be performing to the highest standards. 

 Becky stormed ahead in the votes, particularly following the two aforementioned games against Notts County and Birmingham City. One voter summed it up perfectly, describing her as 'the female Jamie Carragher', 'hard, passionate and scouse'. 

 Altogether now, "There's only one Becky Easton!"

Runners up:

2) Gemma Davison

Oh it's Gemma, Gemma Davison on the wing
credit: @Girlsontheball

The reds number 10 has quickly settled on Merseyside, dazzling the crowds with her blinding pace and brilliant runs forward, swinging cross after cross into the 18-yard box. With losing other key players both before and during the season, Davison's role in the team has grown in importance and she is a key first-team player, playing every minute of every game so far. 

Davison scored her first Liverpool goal with a great effort against Sunderland to break the reds string of 3 games with no goal, also providing the assist for Corina Schroder in the same game. 

In 2014 Gemma also received a long overdue and welcome call-up to the England squad; having missed out on 2 squads since, the winger is making it hard for Mark Sampson to keep ignoring her and has received a call-up to an England training camp which is a preliminary squad for the next World Cup qualifiers

3) Libby Stout/ Gemma Bonner

 As already mentioned the Liverpool defence has been key so far this season, it's no surprise then that tied in 3rd place is goalkeeper Libby Stout and captain Gemma Bonner.

 Libby Stout was one of four winter signings, making the move from the German league. On her competitive home début against Manchester City pulled out a string of great saves. Comfortable controlling the defence in front of her, strong in one-on-one situations and bravely coming out to collect when under pressure. 

Super, Super Stout!
credit: @SupportHerApp

 Gemma Bonner is the perfect captain for Liverpool Ladies Football Club, last season Bonner pulled the team through a number of tough matches following the mid season break and this year has been much the same. A vocal and commanding presence at the back, chases and challenges for every ball.

When I shout Gemma, you shout...
credit: @SupportHerApp

4) Lucy Bronze & 5) Katrin Omarsdottir

Young Player of the Season so far

Given the unprecedented first-team injury crisis, many of Liverpool's development squad have made the step up to plug the gaps. Ashley Hodson and Hannah Dale both coming off the bench at Sunderland away, Hodson a week later a first-half substitution away at Chelsea to replace the injured Kate Longhurst and then starting the following game at home against Everton. Dale has also started for the first team, replacing Katrin Omarsdottir in the final game before the break and putting in a performance as if she'd been there all season.

Ellie Stewart has impressed on her couple of first-team appearances, the young centre back even scoring the winner during the pre-season friendly against Doncaster Belles, while Megan Alexander has also been given a chance at senior level after a good season with the development squad; all 4 not looking out of place.

Amongst the host of youth players, Claudia Walker has stood out. Called up following injury to both Longhurst and Martha Harris after a gruelling first week back; Walker made her début in the derby defeat to Everton, immediately impressing and immersing herself into the game as Liverpool attempted to mount a comeback. Walker's performance earned her a spot in the starting 11 for the following 3 games, including the 6-0 victory over Sunderland Ladies where the young striker was an important part of the Liverpool attacking movement and unlucky not to get on the score sheet. Even more impressive is that between the two derbies, Walker played and scored for the development squad in their Cup semi-final away at Aston Villa; setting up a final against Arsenal Ladies in Birmingham on Saturday 31st May. 

All we need is... Claudia Walker!

Highlight & Team performance of the Season so far

After 3 games with no Liverpool goals, talk began of a drought and where the next goal would come from. Step forward Gemma Davison and Natasha Dowie and a cup tie at home against Sunderland Ladies, Davison opening the scoring and providing the assist for Corina Schoder minutes later and Dowie with a brilliant hat-trick. Katrin Omarsdottir bundled home the final goal of the game after a Lucy Bronze cross, meaning Liverpool had put 6 past the unfortunate Sunderland side. 

Liverpool celebrate Davison's opener vs Sunderland
credit: @Girlsontheball

Goal of the Season so far

Last season Natasha Dowie scored 19 goals in 21 appearances for Liverpool, this season so far the England striker has 6 in 9 appearances (and 25 in 30 appearances overall in a red shirt). For goal of the season so far it could have been a number of Dowie's goal, however her second against Sunderland Ladies stands out. An excellent ball forward from Fara Williams was expertly controlled by Dowie, on her first touch controlling the ball and turning the Sunderland defender to fire from just inside the 18-yard box.

@ 56 seconds

Disappointment of the Season so far

One day we'll be able to look back on The Great Injury Crisis of 2014 and laugh, maybe. To lose two key players in Nicole Rolser and Lucy Staniforth before the season began was a blow, to then lose Katie Zelem for the entire first half of the season and each of Amanda Da Costa, Libby Stout, Martha Harris and Kate Longhurst for a number of games has been more than unlucky. For a couple of games Liverpool were missing no less than 6 first team players. Katrin Omarsdottir also missed the final game before the break against Birmingham City.

Casualties of The Great Injury Crisis of 2014

Development Squad

As mentioned already, the injuries plaguing the first-team has given opportunities to a number of players from the clubs development squad so to take positives from the unfortunate situation it is a testament to the coaching staff that these players have made the step up confidently. Aside from the 5 development squad players making their senior debuts there are many more waiting in the wings, Shannon Beckwith, Olivia Wild and Beth Donoghue to name just a few. 

Liverpool Ladies development squad & coaches
 Since opening their season with a 3-1 win at home against Doncaster Belles, Liverpool went on to win 4 of their opening 5 games - scoring 12 and conceding 4 in those 4 wins. Including a 1-0 win away at league leaders Manchester City, Ashley Hodson with the only goal in that game.

 The next 8 games seen 3 draws, against Doncaster Belles, Everton and Birmingham, a loss away to Aston Villa and 4 victories - a 5-0 thrashing of Doncaster Belles coming just before a 3-0 win over Notts County. Following this game their season was disrupted by the first team injury crisis, losing 5 players at different times along with Katie Zelem, Ellie Stewart and Danielle Gibbons who had all already been training with the seniors.

 Despite 2 losses in a row, a 4-2 defeat to Sunderland and beaten 3-1 away by Birmingham City, the development squad was never short of goals and have in fact scored at least one goal in each game since the goalless draw at Everton in February. In that time they have scored 28 goals in 12 games.

 Following the 2 losses they travelled to face Aston Villa away in their cup semi-final, falling a goal behind Claudia Walker brought the scores level before Beth Donoghue and then Hannah Dale scored to set up a final on Saturday 31st May against Arsenal Ladies.

 On the run-in to their cup final (where they were narrowly beaten 1-0 with a late goal from Arsenal), Liverpool had been finishing off their league campaign in style with a run of 4 games and 4 wins including a derby double over Everton.

 In their final game of the season on Sunday 8th June, the team twice came from behind to beat Durham 4-2 with goals from Ashley Hodson, Sophia Riccio and a brace from Beth Donoghue to finish 3rd overall in the league.

 Overall from 23 games, the development squad have scored 48 goals - an average of 2.08 a game - from 12 different goal scorers. Beth Donoghue is their leading goalscorer with 10 goals in 23 appearances.

Goal scorers:

Beth Donoghue   10   vs Aston Villa, Doncaster Belles, Durham WFC x 3, Everton Ladies x 3 & Sunderland Ladies x 2
Claudia Walker   7   vs Birmingham City, Durham WFC, Doncaster Belles x 2, Aston Villa x 2 & Notts County
Ashley Hodson   7   vs Sunderland Ladies, Durham WFC x 2, Doncaster Belles, Aston Villa, Manchester City x 2
Katie Zelem   4   vs Notts County, Manchester City, Sunderland Ladies x 2
Hannah Dale   4   vs Doncaster Belles, Durham WFC, Aston Villa x2
Sophia Riccio   4   vs Durham WFC, Notts County, Aston Villa & Sunderland Ladies
Mollie Green   3   vs Everton Ladies, Manchester City & Aston Villa
Shannon Beckwith   3   vs Durham WFC, Birmingham City, Doncaster Belles
Olivia Wild   2   vs Durham WFC, Doncaster Belles
Eve Kennerley   2   vs Doncaster Belles, Notts County
Megan Alexander   1   vs Durham WFC
Ellie Stewart   1   vs Durham WFC

 Development Player of the Season

 Picking this was not an easy decision, reading back over match reports from these games a number of names jump out - Ashley Hodson, Claudia Walker, Beth Donoghue, Olivia Wild and Megan Alexander.

 Having said that, a mini vote amongst supporters has narrowed this short list down to just 2 and therefore Beth Donoghue and Megan Alexander are the joint winners for Development Player of the Season.

Beth Donoghue

 As mentioned Beth Donoghue is the top scorer for the team, with 10 goals in 23 appearances - including 3 against Everton Ladies. Lightning quick on her feet and with an eye for a brilliant pass, picking out the runs of her team mates with ease. Donoghue has also made the most appearances for the squad this season.

 From the first time I watched the development squad play, Megan Alexander has been a stand out performer. A versatile player who can play either left wing or left back, Alexander is ever-reliable in defence and over the season has developed a great attacking sense bombing up and down the wing and sending dozens of crosses into the box. 

Megan Alexander

This season I have caught 6 development squad games, seeing them win 3, draw 2 and lose 1. Watching the team is a great way of seeing the future talent at the club, a lot of faith has been put into the players who have aided the first team this year and that faith has been repaid. Hopefully these players and more will be given chances in the second half of the season as well.

The development squad season plays from October to May. Match reports for a number of development squad games can be found below:

10/11/13 - Liverpool Ladies 6 - 2 Durham WFC         potm Megan Alexander
24/11/13 - Liverpool Ladies 1 - 1 Birmingham City         potm Danielle Gibbons
02/02/14 - Liverpool Ladies 0 - 0 Doncaster Belles         potm Beth Donoghue
09/05/14 - Liverpool Ladies 1 - 3 Manchester City         potm Mollie Green
22/05/14 - Everton Ladies 1 v 2 Liverpool Ladies         potm Beth Donoghue/ Megan Alexander
25/05/14 - Liverpool Ladies 4 v 1 Aston Villa         potm Claudia Walker

Liverpool Centre of Excellence 

 To finish on a cup-winning note, on Sunday 1st June Liverpool Ladies U17s beat Everton Ladies 1-0 in The FA Youth Cup final at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes. Maz Gillam, Jess Davenport and Tash Rothery all going close to opening the scoring before Kess Elmore scored the only goal of the game. At the other end of the pitch Rachel Darbyshire was ever-reliable in goal with the solid centre-back pairing of Rachel Robinson and captain Olivia Fuller in front of her, Fuller eventually lifting the cup.

 Match report here: Liverpool U17s 1 - 0 Everton

Thank you to @SupportHerApp, @Girlsontheball and @justaballgame for allowing me to use their pictures in this review, make sure to follow each on twitter!

SupportHer Apparel have a great range of merchandise available for all supporters of women's football, check out their website here: SupportHer

Liverpool Ladies with their SupportHer App scarves!

Finally, thanks as always for reading my blogs on Liverpool Ladies! I have been lucky enough to catch every game so far this season, in the second half of the season the only game I should miss is Bristol Academy away so stick with me (and of course the official website & twitter) for news and updates on the club - 9 games down, 13 to go!

WSL table going into the break

Heather, @LFCladiesfans

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