Liverpool Women fighting battle on two fronts amid survival bid

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Amid a fight for their place in the top flight, Liverpool Women have had to contend with various postponements and troublesome pitch issues.

It’s been a campaign best summarised as promising performances failing to reap the justified results for Vicky Jepson and Co.

The Reds currently sit one place above the drop zone, on goal difference, in the Women’s Super League after picking up six points from their 13 games to date.

A corner has recently been turned as Liverpool are on a run of eights games with three victories, two draws and three defeats across all competitions – a notable upturn in comparison to the two wins and nine defeats from the preceding 12 games this season.

But with just a single victory in the league, Liverpool are left with a fight on their hands for the remainder of the campaign, one which has been repeatedly disrupted since the turn of the year.

 

Waterlogged

Liverpool Women's Manager Vicky Jepson with her players shows her dejection after the final whistle during the FA Women's Super League match at Anfield, Liverpool. ( Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images)

Liverpool Women have seen three games postponed since the start of 2020, with two of those coming in the home fixtures against Man United and Birmingham City due to the unplayable nature of the Prenton Park pitch.

The Reds’ home is also that of Tranmere Rovers, and the ground’s underlying sub-structure, which is around 30 years old, has been unable to handle the recent deluge of rain.

It has ensured that the pitch had become unplayable at the time of Liverpool Women’s most recent fixtures, with an overhaul of the drainage system and sub-structure only set to start in the summer.

The disruptions twice halted any momentum Liverpool Women were looking to build, with a first league goal in open play, in the draw against West Ham, and a subsequent five goals following in the next three games in all competitions all coming prior to Man United’s scheduled visit.

The postponement meant the Reds had a two-week break before they next played, where back to back wins in the league – the first of the season against Bristol – and in the cup (Blackburn) followed.

But the state of Prenton Park would result in Birmingham’s subsequent visit in early February to be postponed, a team who sit just one point ahead in the table.

The momentous outing at Goodison Park in the second Merseyside Derby was then also set back for a later date due to safety concerns during Storm Ciara, meaning the Reds did not return to the field for a further 18 days.

The latter was the right option amid the uncertain weather, but it is the conditions at Prenton Park which highlight the continued gap between professional football for men and women.

The blame is not at the feet of Tranmere Rovers, more at Liverpool and other clubs in similar positions who have yet to adequately fund independent training and playing facilities.

Liverpool CEO Peter Moore claimed the club would “explore all the options open to us” to address the continued disruption to the Reds’ campaign amid their fight for survival.

And it has led to the use of Chester’s Deva Stadium in the interim, with the Reds recently hosting third-placed Arsenal at the ground – where they fell to a narrow 3-2 defeat after initially taking the lead.

After finally seeing a home game go ahead since December 15, with the cup tie against Blackburn in late January also having moved to an alternate venue, Jepson was over the moon with the state and care of the pitch.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA - Monday, July 22, 2019: Liverpool's manager Vicky Jepson' before a friendly match between Liverpool FC Women and Metropolitan Conference All Stars at Jordan Field at the Harvard Stadium on day seven of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“The groundsmen are out here already looking after the pitch for us. We’re not used to that. This is a really good home,” she said.

“I’m really happy with the way Chester have supported us and the club for this quick turnaround. There was a moment where we thought ‘god, where are we going to play our home games?’.”

The fact that the ability to play a home game was met by such reaction highlights the need for greater investment into not only Liverpool Women, but the women’s game in general – with Liverpool’s new £50 million training facilities in Kirkby not set to cater for the women’s side.

 

Time to Turn Performances into Results

After narrowly bowing out of the FA Cup in the fifth round to the league’s second-placed Chelsea, the WSL is now the sole focus for Jepson’s side.

In addition to the three postponed games, which have yet to be rescheduled, the Reds have a further six matches whereby they can pick up points to secure their safety in the top flight for next season.

Five are home fixtures and just four are currently positioned sixth or below in the league table, where taking points off closest rivals Birmingham (10th), Brighton (ninth) and West Ham (eighth) will be vital to create a point buffer between themselves and the current cellar-dwellers Bristol City.

After running Arsenal and Chelsea close in back to back games, there have been notable signs of progress and improvement from the squad.

Rinsola Babajide has found her scoring boots, notching five in her last four starting appearances, while January signing Rachel Furness has made an instant impact, scoring two in four outings – the first of which came in her debut against Bristol to help clinch the Reds’ first league win of the season.

The challenge which awaits the Reds heading into the final stretch of the season is to translate their obvious talent and ability where it matters most: into points on the WSL table.

Liverpool Women’s performances are not representative of their current standing and with 10th placed Birmingham (one point ahead of the Reds) facing off against Bristol in the next matchday, points against West Ham on Sunday are vital.

The Hammers have won just one of their last five games in all competitions, an aggregate score of 15-3, while the Reds have emerged victorious twice in the same number of games.

Liverpool’s matchup on Sunday, February 23 at 3pm (GMT), is the last before the league takes a break and then resumes in mid-March.

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