Despite renewed optimism for the season ahead, Liverpool FC Women have endured a mixed start to the new season following a shock departure at the top.
Liverpool FC Women headed into the new campaign with a clean slate after a summer of vast change with Neil Redfearn headhunted to take the helm and help oversee an influx of new personnel both on and off the field.
It ensured little expectation was placed on the Reds from outside the club’s four walls as they looked to find both their feet and rhythm as a collective unit.
The opening month of the season saw Liverpool scheduled for three fixtures in the Women’s Super League and one in the League Cup; a run, which on paper, was to be both favourable and challenging.
However, the new era got off to a rocky and unexpected start.
The Reds opened their WSL campaign against Arsenal and quickly found themselves off the pace with last season’s third place outfit. In what was only their second competitive game of the campaign Liverpool were visibly experiencing growing pains like most newly constructed teams do.
The Gunners were four goals to the good before the clock ticked over the 40-minute mark as Liverpool’s back four appeared disjointed under continuous waves of pressure from the opposition.
The game ultimately ended 5-0 in Arsenal’s favour, but the Reds refused, at any point, to go into their shells for self-preservation. They showed signs of possessing a creative spark in the forward half, but it was clear the team had yet to completely settle into the new style of play – and time would not afford them the opportunity to do so.
Despite enthusing about the project of overseeing the women’s team, Redfearn sensationally left his post after just one league game. His departure came out of left field and again raised eyebrows over the inner workings of this arm of the football club.
With the manager electing to head for the exit door – where he is now working with Newcastle’s academy – former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, who joined the backroom team over the summer, is now the caretaker manager and supported by assistant manager Vicky Jepson.
Liverpool’s first game with their new managerial set up was against Durham in their round one League Cup tie, and it proved just as dramatic as the events which had unfolded off the field.
The Reds made the perfect start having secured the lead within two minutes after defender Sophie Bradley-Auckland finished off a well-worked set piece before Durham went on to score three unanswered goals before the hour mark.
A frantic finish, however, saw the Reds claw their way back to level terms with both Rinsola Babajide and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk capitalising on Liverpool’s pressure to set up a penalty shootout. Keeper Anke Preuss proved to be the hero as she twice denied Durham from the spot before Bradley-Auckland steered the team to a 5-4 penalty win.
The morale-boosting victory was then taken back to league action as the Reds picked up their first three points of the campaign against Brighton after Babajide’s inspired appearance from the bench saw the Reds sneak home with a narrow 1-0 victory.
Roles were then reversed for the Reds on the next matchday at the end of September as Reading inflicted Liverpool’s second league defeat of the season with a 1-0 scoreline, a game which also saw defender Rhiannon Roberts dismissed early in the second term following two yellow card offences.
Overall, the month of September was a mixed bag for the Reds and it has left them in eighth position in the WSL with three games on the board, where the most notable area of improvement lies in the defence after conceding 10 goals in the opening five fixtures across all competitions.
But the defence will not have long to wait for a chance to test themselves against the best as Liverpool are set to face off against both Chelsea and Manchester City – last season’s champions and runners-up – at the end of the month following favourable fixtures against both Yeovil Town and West Ham in the next block of league fixtures.
Liverpool will host Yeovil Town Ladies at Prenton Park on Sunday, October 14, kick-off at 2pm (BST). You can buy tickets for the fixture here.