The first Liverpool Ladies home game of 2014 seen the development squad battle Doncaster Belles to the final whistle for a share of the points.
Three players returned from international duty with England, Olivia Wild, Hannah Dale and Claudia Walker have all been involved in training camps and friendlies this week with the England Under 19s. Olivia Wild also made her return to first team action after injuring her wrist in the last competitive fixture last year.
Missing from the squad were Ellie Stewart, Katie Zelem and Danielle Gibbons, all three players are now training with the first team who returned from the off-season last week. Replacing keeper Danielle Gibbons was new signing from Blackburn Rovers Gemma Jackson.
The game started similarly to the last two home games for the development squad, neither side really troubling the others defence and a few strikes from distance outside of the box. The game began to settle around the 15 minute mark, Liverpool beginning a nice passing move which led to Ashley Hodson shooting just wide after being fed through by Bethany Donoghue.
Throughout the 90 minutes, the game was end-to-end. The Liverpool defence and new centre-back pairing of Sophia Riccio and Shannon Beckwith withstanding the pressure from the Doncaster attacks, Hannah Dale also made a couple of important challenges during the first half. Dale was effective at both ends throughout the match with a couple of long range efforts either side of half-time.
New signing Gemma Jackson impressed on her debut, Doncaster perhaps had more shots on target than Liverpool but Jackson dealt with each strike well. During the first half a low cross came into the box which the Doncaster striker attempted to tap past the keeper, Jackson stayed on her feet to clear the ball.
The two full-backs Olivia Wild and Megan Alexander also had impressive games on the flanks, as Natasha Dowie mentioned on LFC TV’s Thursday Night Live the other night Matt Beard has his full-backs playing higher up attacking like wing-backs and this seems to be the case for the development squad also.
Claudia Walker and Ashley Hodson up front also continued their good form from last year, Walker with a fantastic chance in the first half weaving her way through the midfield before shooting on goal and Hodson with an agonisingly close effort with about ten minutes to go in the second half. Walker squared the ball to Hodson in the 6-yard box but the strike went the wrong side of the post.
Hannah Dale perhaps had the games greatest chance, pulled down on the edge of the 18-yard box in the first-half, Dale stepped up to take the free kick herself. The ball swung in and dipped but crashed off the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.
Victoria Rumsey and Emilie Revitt were both second half substitutes, replacing Rebecca Hillman and Megan Alexander. Revitt linking up well with Riccio in the dying minutes to thwart a final Doncaster attack and keep the score level at 0-0.
POTM: Could have gone to a number of players today, Hannah Dale gets more impressive in the centre of midfield each game, Olivia Wild had a great game at left back against tough opposition, but Player of the Match today goes to Bethany Donoghue who was a constant attacking threat on the right of midfield, putting cross after cross into the box and being very unlucky that none of these were converted past the Belles keeper.
Team: Jackson, Wild, Beckwith, Riccio, Alexander (Revitt), Dale, Donoghue, Vella, Hillman (Rumsey), Hodson, Walker
The squad now has a couple of weeks before their next game, away at Duham. The next home game listed here is against Notts County on 30th March.
For more information on Liverpool’s development squad follow the official @LFCLadies twitter.
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