Liverpool Ladies lost 2-1 at home to Notts County Ladies, the injury plagued Reds were defeated by goals either side of half-time from a rampant Jess Clarke. Rosie White had equalised in the first half on her first start.
The loss puts Liverpool 6th in the league table, 8 points from the top-of-the-league Chelsea Ladies – who suffered a 4-0 defeat at Sunderland Ladies.
There were a couple of changes to the side that beat Arsenal Ladies 3-1 away from home last weekend; Rosie White and Mayumi Pacheco both handed their full first-team debuts replacing Ashley Hodson and Katrin Omarsdottir. Ingrid Ryland and Lucy Staniforth, both missing last week, were named on the bench while Corina Schroder remains sidelined.
Liverpool also underwent a formation change, from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1. Becky Easton in front of a back four of Martha Harris at right-back, Gemma Bonner and Satara Murray in the centre and Pacheco on the left with Libby Stout in goal.
Fara Williams partnered Kate Longhurst in the centre of midfield, White on the left, Asisat Oshoala on the right and Natasha Dowie up front.
Liverpool captain Bonner was making her 50th appearance for the club.
Notts regularly draw plaudits for their defence, yet it was their attack that impressed most from the opening whistle as Dunia Susi, Ellen White and Jess Clarke got themselves in and around the Liverpool defence, putting the Reds under pressure. Susi’s cross in the second minute was cleared by the well-positioned Becky Easton but County surged forward again for Clarke to try her luck from 25 yards out, Libby Stout was wise to the danger and across to claim.
The visitors opened the scoring shortly afterwards, a free kick sent into the box by Alex Greenwood was headed on by E. White and finished by Clarke.
1-0 up and barely pausing for breath, County continued to pile forward – Maz Pacheco dealing well with an awkward ball over the top before Satara Murray was put under pressure from Rachel Williams and E.White, clearing from inside the box but seconds later finding herself having to once more defend from the fast attack.
Liverpool began to find their feet with Natasha Dowie, who provided assists for 2 of the goals against Arsenal, dropping a little deeper to pick the ball up. Dowie drops deep, wins the ball with her back to goal, then turns to flick it on for Oshoala who can chase. On 2 occasions in the first half this played out, first Oshoala making it to the edge of the area only to be brought down by Amy Turner, then taking the ball out wide – with Fara Williams having made the run into the middle – but this time the Nigerian ran into traffic and was dispossessed.
F.Williams swung a promising free kick into the box towards Gemma Bonner making a run at the back post, this was cleared as far as Oshoala whose strike was blocked. Liverpool were beginning to look the side most likely to score, up at the other end Gemma Bonner read a Notts set piece well to come out and prevent R.Williams from knocking the free kick on and Martha Harris’ shot-cross went so narrowly over the crossbar that some supporters in attendance thought it was in.
Those supporters in attendance, 867 a somewhat disappointing figure given the rise in ticket sales across the league, were soon rewarded with a goal.
The Reds won a free kick midway through the Notts half, Fara Williams sending a clever low ball towards Kate Longhurst, Longhurst saw her shot blocked but Notts couldn’t clear in time and Rosie White scored her first Liverpool goal from just inside the 6-yard box.
Liverpool finished the first half strongly, perhaps unlucky not to go in at the break ahead – Dowie bravely going for a cross in the box and being clattered by goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain. Chamberlain denied Dowie again, touching her long range strike over the crossbar.
Chamberlain then produced a good reaction save to stop Oshoala and collected Laura Bassett’s header after Liverpool produced their best football of the game – wonderfully tapping the ball around.
Shortly before the half-time whistle, Oshoala was challenged once again by Turner – this time requiring treatment on the pitch.
HALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL LADIES 1 – 1 NOTTS COUNTY LADIES
Oshoala emerged with the rest of the team after the break, however Satara Murray had also picked up an injury during the opening 45 minutes and was replaced by Katrin Omarsdottir. Not long into the second half, Oshoala could no longer play on – with Ashley Hodson coming on.
Murray leaving the pitch at half-time meant Becky Easton moved back alongside Gemma Bonner at centre-back and Omarsdottir took up the position of defensive midfielder.
The disruptions meant that the free-flowing football Liverpool had displayed towards the end of the first-half took a hit and once more they found themselves fending off the Notts attack. Bonner was everywhere, clearing 3 balls forward in quick succession.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Notts were soon back in the lead. Jess Clarke scoring her second of the game and Ellen White with her second assist – Liverpool appealed that Clarke was offside when the ball was played, but the goal stood.
Matt Beard made his third and final change with Lucy Staniforth taking to the pitch in place of Natasha Dowie, the move seeing Kate Longhurst move up front – and later a formation change as Liverpool went to 3 at the back, Bonner, Easton and Harris, with Pacheco going to left wing.
Up front Longhurst continued to work tirelessly; breaking into the box, but carrying the ball a yard too far and having her strike from a tight angle save. Then Longhurst cleverly dummied a pass, Harris attempted to get behind the defence but Notts regained possession.
Liverpool’s afternoon went from bad to worse as Fara Williams had to leave the pitch, Williams had received treatment pitchside moments earlier but the injury would force her out of the game – Liverpool reduced to 10 players for the final 10 minutes plus injury time.
Rosie White had a late chance to equalise for the second time, receiving the ball with her back to goal and holding off her marker well to turn – the Reds new signing just couldn’t get the power behind the final shot and Chamberlain collected.
A disappointing afternoon for Liverpool, marred by injury. The team have a short turnaround before they are back in action, the Continental Cup group stage begins in Widnes on Thursday night with the first derby of 2015 against WSL2’s Everton Ladies. The game is classed as an Everton home game, Liverpool season ticket holders will need to buy tickets on the gate or online.
FULL-TIME: LIVERPOOL LADIES 1 – 2 NOTTS COUNTY LADIES
XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Murray (Omarsdottir), Pacheco, Easton, Oshoala (Hodson), Williams, Longhurst, White, Dowie (Staniforth)
POTM Rosie White
To finish on a positive note, Liverpool Ladies Development Squad were presented with their trophy and medals from the 2014/15 title winning campaign. Sylvia Gore presenting team captain Shannon Beckwith the the trophy. Read a full season review on the development squad here.