Liverpool Ladies picked up their 3rd straight win in the Continental Cup on Saturday evening; Natasha Dowie coming off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the second half, her 4th in the competition so far.
Defensively the Reds were unchanged from last weekend’s 2-2 draw away at Sunderland with Mayumi Pacheco, Becky Easton, Gemma Bonner and Martha Harris lining up from left to right in front of Libby Stout in goal. Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir also remained in midfield, joined by Katie Zelem; Kate Longhurst, Line Smorsgard and Ashley Hodson the attacking front 3.
Throughout the first half Liverpool dominated the possession yet found it tough breaking Durham down, the visitors placing 9 players behind the ball and forward Amelia Pereira 20 yards or so ahead of them.
Liverpool had a number of corners in quick succession in the opening stages of the first half, Staniforth’s delivery good on each occasion – Longhurst getting her head to one but unable to direct her header goal wards. Staniforth also seen a free kick blocked by the wall and an audacious long range effort from 40-yards dip just a couple of seconds too late to go narrowly over the crossbar.
Ashley Hodson worked tirelessly up front searching for an opening, winning the first two corners and then latching onto a long ball over the top and through the middle of the defence. Hodson beating her marker with an impressive burst of speed yet her final strike inches wide.
The Reds were passing the ball around well, with Durham seemingly comfortable to allow the home side to keep the ball, standing off and rarely pressing. Kate Longhurst had a shot parried after Katie Zelem neatly clipped the ball to Hodson, her cross meeting Longhurst in the centre of the box but Helen Alderson in the Durham goal positioned well.
Longhurst was denied by Alderson again moments later, Hodson combining with Martha Harris to send the ball in from the right, Longhurst controlling and turning under pressure to get her shot in on target however an opening goal continued to elude Liverpool.
On the rare occasion Durham broke ranks, the Reds defence dealt with the attacks with ease – Becky Easton matching Nicki Gears run and eventually seeing the ball out for a goal kick. A free kick was also well defended by Liverpool, with Gemma Bonner and Easton both blocking rebound attempts.
Before half-time Staniforth rattled the post with a fiercely struck free kick and Line Smorsgard shot wide after being set up by Mayumi Pacheco.
Half-time: Liverpool Ladies 0 – 0 Durham WFC
Liverpool emerged unchanged for the second half and continued to pile the pressure on their visitors with Longhurst once more seeing her volley end in the arms of Alderson and a stunning cross in from Hodson skimming several red shirts in the box, while Pacheco shot over the crossbar and Bonner had a low drive punched away at the bottom corner.
A change in personnel arrived with 35 minutes to play, Matt Beard making a double substitution in bringing on Rosie White and Natasha Dowie for Omarsdottir and Smorsgard; the duo making an immediate impact.
Dowie has been in fine goalscoring form since the return from the summer break and looked hungry for more here, her first touch a nicely struck hit from the edge of the box deflected out for a corner, then the no.9 chased down Zelem’s through ball – the shot blocked and looking to be headed out for a corner, until hitting the turf and bouncing into the hands of the grateful keeper. Alderson then produced a good save at close range from Dowie after she had been put through by White.
After her introduction it seemed only a matter of time before the striker was on the score sheet, 10 minutes after entering the fray Dowie converted Hodson’s cross over the line to put Liverpool ahead – and then almost scored a second immediately from the restart.
The goal would prove to be the decisive one here, White going close hitting the crossbar and Bonner shooting wide in the final minutes.
Satara Murray also made a welcome return from injury during the second half, although replacing Longhurst who picked up an injury during a brief flurry of activity in the Liverpool box.
Full-time: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Durham WFC
XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Easton, Pacheco, Omarsdottir (White), Staniforth, Zelem, Smorsgard (Dowie), Longhurst (Murray), Hodson
POTM Ashley Hodson