The opening month of the 2019/20 campaign reaped little return in terms of points on the board for Liverpool FC Women.
Vicky Jepson’s side welcomed the start of the new campaign with a spring in their step and optimism aplenty after establishing a deep sense of camaraderie within the squad.
The Reds linked up with the men’s team for the summer tour of the United States where they kicked off their preparations for the season on a positive note, having emerged unbeaten from their three pre-season games.
However, the campaign proper has yet to see Liverpool’s promising performances reflected on the scoreboard as they have tasted defeat in each of their four games to date.
Liverpool finished last season in eighth and with the club finally establishing a sense of stability after a squad overhaul and a surprise departure of manager Neil Redfearn the previous summer, there is a firm desire to improve their standing come May.
The month of September was not as receptive to this notion, however, as the Reds failed to put any points on the board in both the Women’s Super League and the Continental Tyres Cup.
Jepson’s side got their league season underway in front of their home faithful at Prenton Park against Reading and would ultimately fall to a 1-0 defeat after ex-Red Fara Williams netted a stunning free-kick from distance on the cusp of half-time.
Liverpool emerged from the break with renewed intent and were deserving to walk away with at least a point as they were not without chances of their own.
Last season’s leading goalscorer Courtney Sweetman-Kirk had found herself with a clear route to goal, while few gambled on a number of Niamh Charles’ threatening deliveries across the six-yard line.
And it was a performance which would set the early scene for the Reds this season, as promising attacks fizzled out due to poor decision-making in the final third and defensive lapses deep into each half would prove costly.
This pattern would again unfold when the Reds travelled to face the newly promoted Tottenham as Becky Jane conceded a needless penalty moments before the interval.
It forced the Reds to once again chase the game in the second half without success as the cohesion in the final third remained a work in progress; a defeat was compounded by Niamh Fahey’s red card 25 minutes from time.
Domestic cup action then offered an opportunity to not only find the net for the first time this season but also secure a first win of the campaign when Liverpool hosted Championship side Sheffield United.
It did not all go to plan, however.
Ashley Hodson, a graduate of the club’s centre of excellence, would score the Reds’ first goal of the season on her first start of the campaign to see Liverpool take a rare lead before the Blades equalised after the interval.
An inspired substitution soon after saw Charles make an immediate impact having steered her headed effort home.
It established a delicate lead which looked to be enough before Jade Bailey saw red and lightning struck once more as the Championship side scored twice in the last seven minutes.
While Liverpool will have been buoyed by their ability to find finally themselves on the scoresheet, the result consigned Jepson’s side to their third successive defeat in as many games.
An immediate return to league action with a trip to face Man United offered both teams the chance to secure their first points of the campaign.
And while a bright and threatening start saw the Reds continually expose the space offered out wide, the final finish evaded them once more and allowed United to remain in contention where they would go on to net two second-half goals.
Time to Bounce Back
Despite having nothing to show for the opening month where it really matters, Liverpool have shown positive glimpses and signs that they are capable of causing the opposition issues.
Their buildup play is not overly problematic, rather the synergy between players in attack and the final finish are the key areas which need improving to see the Reds turn their fortunes around.
In their three league games so far they have amassed just four shots on target.
At the other end of the field, while the defence is relatively settled with Jane, Fahey, Sophie Bradley-Auckland and Leighanne Robe, Liverpool have conceded seven goals in four games.
Poor decision-making and lapses deep into each 45 have proven costly, but the performances of Anke Preuss between the sticks are worth noting as the German ensured the Reds remained in touching distance for much of the opening month.
Ultimately, the table is not great viewing for the Reds but football always throws up opportunities for redemption.
Liverpool will seek to steer their ship back on course when they host a Bristol City side who have collected just one point from their opening three games.
The league clash at Prenton Park precedes three successive away trips, starting with a visit to Coventry United in the Conti Cup before a meeting with Birmingham in the league, rounding off their next back of fixtures with a cup game against Aston Villa.
Liverpool host Bristol City in the WSL at Prenton Park on Sunday, October 13 with kickoff at 12pm (BST).
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