Match Report: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Doncaster Belles

 Liverpool Ladies supporters in attendance this evening were treated to debut home performances from no less than 6 players.

 Winter signings Lucy Staniforth and Gemma Davison were each handed a place in the starting line up, Staniforth making her first start since returning from injury. Martha Harris and Libby Stout were both second half substitutes while development squad graduates Katie Zelem and Ellie Stewart also entered the fray in the second half.

 An unusual line up change meant Libby Stout played the first 45 minutes in goal for Doncaster, switching at half-time with Danielle Gibbons who had had a busy 45 minutes in the Liverpool goal.

 Liverpool also named a trialist amongst the starting 11, keep an eye on the official LFC Ladies twitter for any developments with that between now and the start of the season.

 Doncaster Belles kicked us off in the first half, immediately the game picked up a fast pace with both sides showing attacking intent. Matt Beard had named two strikers in his starting 11, Kate Longhurst and Natasha Dowie, with Longhurst seemingly playing just behind Dowie. Both strikers linked up well throughout the first half, Longhurst doing everything but scoring with a number of strikes going agonisingly close.

 Early in the first half an impressive Gemma Davison broke down the right wing, cutting the ball across the field from distance to Lucy Staniforth who tried her luck from 40 yards but the shot went into the stands.

 Sue Smith was ever the attacking threat on the left for the Belles, Lucy Bronze had her hands full particularly during the first half when Smith was sending ball after ball into the Liverpool box. Danielle Gibbons dealing well with any balls sent her way, being forced into a dive on a number of occasions.

 Bronze towards the end of last season established herself as one of Liverpool’s most important players, tonight she had yet another excellent game at right back. Battling for the ball, running up and down the wing and despite moving into centre-back when Becky Easton replaced captain Gemma Bonner still finding herself in the 6-yard box at the other end being unlucky to break the deadlock on around 80 minutes.

 Gemma Davison was the catalyst to many of the Liverpool attacks, showing off the pace and skill she is renowned for and that she displayed against us with Arsenal in August last year. Davison almost set Fara Williams up after flicking the ball brilliantly around the Doncaster defender and into the path of Williams, her chip only saved by the goalkeeper at full stretch.

 At a number of points during the game it felt as though there was no way through the Doncaster defence, Katrin battled her way through the centre of midfield with her strike being put out for a corner. The resulting corner being cleared but only into the path of Staniforth who’s blocked shot went back to Katrin who’s goal bound strike was saved. Minutes later Kate Longhurst tried a low shot from 6 yards out, parried away only as far as Williams who’s sideways pass found Staniforth. Staniforth’s strike was hit into the path of Natasha Dowie but the goals continued to elude Liverpool and again the shot was saved.

 During the second half, Natasha Dowie and Kate Longhurst linked up well again as Longhurst chested the ball down into the path of the oncoming Dowie but her shot went inches over the bar.

 Martha Harris replaced Corina Schroder at half-time, Lincoln’s Player of the Year last season also making an immediate impact doing well under pressure shielding the ball from Doncaster’s Millie Bright and safely into the hands of Libby Stout. Harris also impressed attacking down the left wing, linking well with the midfield and making it look like she was playing three positions at once!

 Two players introduced during the second half, Katie Zelem replacing Lucy Staniforth and Ellie Stewart replacing the trialist have both been enjoying fantastic seasons with the development squad over the winter break. Both receiving deserved call-ups into the first team squad. Ellie Stewart in particular seems much older than her 17 years when on the pitch, already a commanding presence at centre-back. It was Stewart too who finally broke the deadlock minutes from time, meeting Fara Williams’ corner powerfully to head home and give Liverpool the win.

 Much more happened during the course of the game, Kate Longhurst perhaps having the unluckiest 90 minutes in front of goal doing everything but scoring. For all the match updates and play by play as it happened, check out the Twitter feed at @LFCladiesfans

 Liverpool XI: Gibbons (Stout), Bronze, Bonner (C)(Easton), trialist (Stewart), Schroder (Harris), Omarsdottir, Williams, Staniforth (Zelem), Davison, Longhurst, Dowie (Rolser)

 POTM: Gemma Davison

 A very enjoyable evening back at Halton watching the first team, thanks for reading this match report and welcome to any new followers on Twitter this evening!

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