Natasha Harding shone in a leading role for Liverpool Ladies in Widnes on Friday night. The Welsh international had a hand in each goal as the Reds defeated Reading Women 4-2.
Harding first had the ball in the back of the net after only 66 seconds, only for Reading to score twice in quick succession through Brooke Chaplen and Melissa Fletcher to put the visitors ahead.
Midway through the first half Harding netted her second to level proceedings, then played the pass that allowed Alex Greenwood to set up Caroline Weir and seen her second half cross converted by Laura Coombs.
With three goals in the opening ten minutes, each side struggled to grasp control of the game.
The ever-improving Greenwood, looking stronger every game, spurned a Reading attack to move the ball up the field towards Niamh Charles. The young forward, who has also recently returned from injury, initially lost the ball but quickly won it back to play in Harding.
Harding carried the ball forward and curled a fine finish in off the far post to make it 1-0 to Liverpool.
The lead was to be short-lived however and former Everton and Sunderland midfielder Brooke Chaplen – who loves a goal against Liverpool – struck an effort from range that thwarted Reds number one Siobhan Chamberlain.
Back on level terms with just over three minutes on the clock, Reading’s Rebecca Jane attempted to cross the ball towards the waiting Fletcher. Sophie Ingle read the danger well and was quickly out to intercept. The ball went out for a corner which Chaplen caught on the volley yet Ingle once more was able to clear.
Undeterred the visitors went back in again, a cross in from the left this time only half cleared by the Reds defence and Fletcher volleying the ball home.
Suddenly behind after a quick turnaround Liverpool began to show more promise going forward. Harding, with her back to goal, tapped the ball to Coombs who in turn sprayed it wide to Charles on the left wing – her cross caught by Earps.
Then Reds captain Gemma Bonner took a free kick from inside the Liverpool half that was flicked on by Harding, yet Earps was off her line to grab the ball before Shanice Van De Sanden could pounce.
As the game began to settle Chamberlain did well to hold onto Rachel Furness’ hit from distance, while at the other end Charles was denied her first goal for the club by Kirsty McGee.
Midway through the half Harding struck again following brilliant build up play; Hodson had shrug off a challenge over on the right to get the ball across to her full-back counterpart Greenwood, from there Charles again played through Harding who bagged the equaliser.
Harding was flying and Liverpool were beginning to impress. A smart move started by Coombs led to Harding and Greenwood exchanging passes, Greenwood racing to the by-line and putting the ball on a plate for Caroline Weir to re-establish the Reds lead.
Liverpool took a 3-2 lead in at the break despite Reading piling on the pressure searching for another equaliser. Last weekend’s super sub Katie Zelem, the only change in the line-up replacing Kate Longhurst, blocking a Remi Allen strike and Weir also back in defence to win the ball back in the 18-yard box.
The visitors came out fighting again in the second half, Furness sending a free kick wide.
Harding was at the heart of everything, playing her best game yet in a Liverpool shirt and should really have had a penalty awarded after being pulled down in the Reading box – the referee waving away her claims.
The Wale vice-captain wasn’t put off however and a minute later displayed lightning pace to cut past the Reading centre-half, squaring the ball to Coombs who made no mistakes from a yard out.
From here Liverpool really were in control and cruising, the trio of Charles, Greenwood and Harding linking up as Harding tried to find Weir with a nifty back hell that was intercepted by the defence.
Earps would also deny Harding her hat-trick, out to intercept Weir’s intended pass, while Chamberlain twice stopped Reading getting back into the game – superbly saving a Fletcher strike after the ball had ricocheted around the area and also holding substitute Charlie Estcourt’s effort from distance.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Hodson, Bonner ©, Ingle, Greenwood, Zelem, Coombs, Weir, Van De Sanden (Longhurst), Charles (Johnson), Harding
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Natasha Harding

It was a convincing win in the end for Scott Rogers’ Liverpool Ladies side who are the early pace-setters in the FAWSL Spring Series. The Reds are back in action on Thursday night away to Arsenal Ladies in a 7:30pm kick-off at The Hive.

X-REDS: Catching up with Fylde [Part 1]

Previously on X-Reds:

Having visited Mill Farm to watch Fylde Ladies F.C. on two occasions already in their 2016/17 campaign, and with plans to attend their final game of the season against Middlesbrough; I had grand thoughts in my mind of a Fylde trilogy for X-Reds.

Then a couple of weeks ago when looking up their results and upcoming fixtures, I spotted a new fixture listed against recently crowned Women’s Premier League North champions Blackburn Rovers. The full time website was showing that this game was to be played in Swindon however, undeterred, I began to make plans on how to get there before realising: why the hell would Fylde be playing Blackburn in Swindon.

As you will be unsurprised to hear and much to my relief, the game was not to be played at the County Ground in Swindon, but the County Ground in Leyland.

When I remembered the plans for completing the ‘Fylde trilogy’ in the game against Middlesbrough I briefly considered just going to this game as a supporter, before remembering that now it is fully acceptable (kind of) to split the final part of a trilogy into two parts. So that is what this is, part one of part three with part two of part three coming in a couple of weeks.

SMP Photography

Fylde are a team that I’ve come to, unapologetically, really like; with the trio of X-Reds they have in Yasmine Swarbrick, Olivia Wild and Eve Kennerley and the overall atmosphere at the club. I’ve even got a Fylde scarf and a handy bottle opener keyring. So despite Blackburn having an X-Red in their ranks in Jess Holbrook (Ellie Stewart also now on the Rovers playing roster but ineligible to play in this game), I headed to the game – the Lancashire Women’s Challenge Cup final no less – in full support of the Coasters.


Manager Conrad Prendergast made four changes to his team from Fylde’s last game away at Nottingham Forest; Yasmine Swarbrick – who scored in this fixture last year – and Eve Kennerley named on the bench along with Laura Walker.

Danielle Brown returned between the posts while Development Squad graduate Leah Foster led the line up front – supported by Olivia Wild playing further up the pitch than usual, playing just behind Foster yet ahead of the midfield.

The back line had England youth international Olivia Wilkes at right back, Alice Forshaw on the left and captain Charlotte Farrell partnered by Jenna Carroll in central defence.

Danielle Young, Chloe Adam, Kim Turner and Hannah Forster completed the line-up for the Coasters.


With the air of a typical Cup final, a tense first half was played out in Leyland with not much in the way of clear cut chances for either side.

In the opening ten minutes Foster closed down Blackburn goalkeeper Danielle Hill, winning the ball and cutting it back to Forster yet the defence recovered well and were able to clear their lines.

Then at the other end Holbrook struck an effort that took a deflected to land safely in the arms of Brown.

The biggest chance came when Faye McCoy, who scored twice in the derby at Mill Farm late last year, seen a header cleared off the line by Turner and, almost immediately, up at the other end Wilkes’ cross appeared to hit a defenders hand only for the referee to wave away Fylde’s calls for a penalty.


Fylde came quick out the blocks in the second half, leaving Rovers temporarily stunned, Wilkes sent a fizzing cross along the 6-yard box yet it couldn’t quite reach Wild – who had made a great run to the back post – and the defence were able to clear.

A series of Blackburn set pieces were then turned away by Fylde; Wilkes heading one clear, Brown catching one and a third headed onto the crossbar after being swung in by Holbrook.

SMP Photography

With 35 minutes to play, a welcome sight came from the bench as Swarbrick was introduced in a straight swap for Foster. Then, five minutes later,  came Kennerley. The duos impact was immediate and their fighting spirit clear as they battled for every ball.

Swarbrick up front and chasing everything and everyone, closing down the ‘keeper and dropping back to defend and Kennerley giving the Coasters a bit more steel in the middle of the park, winning the ball and constantly looking to move it forward.

Unfortunately for Fylde, Blackburn would eventually capitalise on one of their set pieces. McCoy heading the ball over the line and providing the league winners with the cup winning goal.

In the games closing stages as the Coasters chased an equaliser – and came close through Wilkes driven strike from distance – both Wild and Carroll were forced off through injury.

It is a crushing blow to lose a final, to lose a final by one goal, to lose to your local rivals.

However this Fylde side can take pride in how they applied themselves, going toe-to-toe with Blackburn who have lost only once all season and there are plenty of positives the Coasters can take into their final few games of the season, and then on again into 2017/18.

Fylde face Middlesbrough at Mill Farm in their final game of the season on Sunday 14th May, 2017 – 2pm kick-off.

Photo credit – SMP Photography 

X-REDS: Stopover in Bristol

Previously on X-Reds:

The Return of #StanWatch

I’m a Breaker!
Derby Day in Freezing Fylde
Fantasy Fylde

Yeovil away.
The one trip I wanted to avoid from the Spring Series, and therefore obviously Liverpool’s first game.
As it happens with the atmosphere inside the ground, the crowd and the staff of Yeovil Town, it was one of my favourite away trips following the mighty Reds. The 4-1 score line helped as well.
Yeovil being as far away as it is – a 500 mile round trip – we decided to stay over the night before in Bristol where, as fate would have it, Bristol City Women kicked off the FAWSL1 Spring Series on Saturday night against Reading Women.

The perfect opportunity to catch up with ex-Liverpool defenders Megan Alexander (Bristol) and Mandy Van Den Berg (Reading); although Dutch captain Van Den Berg was unable to play due to an injury picked up on international duty.

It was brilliant to watch Megan play once again, the defender left Liverpool for Everton – the side she made her Reds first debut against – in January 2015 before moving to Bristol twelve months later.

The left-back made 19 appearances for the Vixens in 2016 as they earned automatic promotion from WSL2, and started here this afternoon.

When this blog first began reporting on Liverpool’s Development Squad, it was Alexander that stood out. In November 2013, the side beat Durham 6-2 and Alexander was named Player of the Match; “a particularly impressive second-half performance, a hat-trick of chances capped with a well taken goal.”

Alexander has a lovely attacking flair and since leaving Liverpool this has continued to develop alongside the defensive part of her game. To watch her play at Ashton Gate on Saturday evening, back in the top flight amongst a talented young Bristol side was great and, despite the result, the Vixens can walk away from the game feeling hard done by.


Having dominated the opening 45-minutes Bristol fell to three second-half strikes and pulled a late consolation goal back; Reading simply taking their chances well.

The visitors also had Mary Earps between the posts, the ‘keeper recently named in the WSL PFA Team of the Year, and a back three consisting of Harriet Scott, Kirsty McGee and Anna Green.

When Bristol had the ball the Reading back three reverted into a back five, with Rebecca Jane and Rachel Rowe dropping back into defence with help from Rachel Furness in midfield.

Melissa Fletcher led up front for Reading, yet at times looked isolated despite support from Brooke Chaplen and Lauren Bruton – Charlie Estcourt completed the line-up in central midfield.

Bristol’s first chance of the game came down the left flank, Alexander attacking with intent and finding Claire Emslie on the overlap. Emslie’s cross was intercepted and Chloe Arthur fired over the crossbar.

The hosts passing was a joy to watch; quick, short passes leaving the Reading defence sliced wide open and forcing Earps into a low save with her foot. Emslie was a constant bright spark on the left and shortly into the first half, cut in and hit a shot that beat Earps but bounced back off the post.

Although it was Bristol with the more meaningful chances in the first half, when Fletcher closed in on goal at the other end she was quickly supported by Chaplen and Bruton only for Vixens goalkeeper Caitlin Leach off her line to gather up the ball.

Of the Reading defence it was McGee in the middle who impressed most and when on the ball looking to carry it out from the back. In the middle of the field Estcourt was twice robbed of the ball, first by Lauren Hemp and then by Jodie Brett who each looked to move the ball forward although still Bristol couldn’t make their efforts count.

Midway through the half Brett swung in a free kick that was met by Alexander, yet unfortunately her low drive was caught by Earps.

Reading finished the half strongly, Furness’ hit was blocked by the Bristol defence and fell to Jane out wide. Jane moved the ball back towards Chaplen who struck her effort over the bar.

Furness then threaded a ball through to Bruton who in turn looked for the run of Chaplen, with Bristol captain Hayley Ladd out to intercept.

As the half drew to a close Reading seemed to be consigned to shooting from distance, Fletcher latching onto a pass infield from Rowe and hitting a shot from outside the box that was blocked. Green also took a short free kick to Chaplen who had positioned herself just wide of the Bristol wall, again the final shot closed down.

Reading’s luck however would change in the second half following the introduction of Remi Allen for Estcourt. A set piece straight from the training ground two minutes in, with Rowe’s corner bouncing off the head of Furness towards the back of the 6-yard box and into the back of the net.

With the 1-0 lead the Royals continued to defence in numbers and then scored twice in quick succession – Rowe and Fletcher making it 3-0 just fifteen minutes into the half.

Another fifteen minutes passed and Bristol pulled a goal back, Hemp with the strike, but this merely a consolation and the Royals picking up their first three points of the season.

Liverpool face Reading in Widnes this Friday night and Bristol at the Stoke Gifford Stadium on Saturday 20th May. Good luck to both Megan and Mandy with the rest of their seasons!


1,897 supporters watched as Liverpool Ladies defeated FAWSL1 newcomers Yeovil Town Ladies 4-1 at Huish Park on Sunday afternoon.
Alex Greenwood gave Liverpool the lead from the penalty spot, Gemma Bonner converted a corner on the stroke of half-time and Katie Zelem came from the bench to net twice in the second half. Sarah Wiltshire also bagged a goal from the spot as Yeovil pulled back a late consolation.
The Reds, playing in Yeovil’s yellow away strip after leaving their kit back in Widnes, controlled the game from the opening whistle, looking hungry for goals and showcasing wonderfully free-flowing attacking football.
Greenwood and Niamh Charles on the left wing, Shanice Van De Sanden and Ashley Hodson on the right and Caroline Weir ahead of the returning Laura Coombs in midfield all key partnerships across the pitch, with Natasha Harding leading the line up front.
Kate Longhurst partnered Coombs in the middle of the field, while Sophie Ingle dropped back into defence – Casey Stoney missing out on the trip – to play alongside Bonner and Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
It took just three minutes for Liverpool to create their first goal scoring opportunity; Harding was brought down outside the 18-yard box and raced onto Greenwood’s set piece – Yeovil goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes quick to react and tip the ball away.
Harding then matched the run of Van De Sanden a minute later, the Dutch international’s low cross however a yard behind Harding and the Yeovil defence able to clean up at the back.
Next it was Weir with two chances in quick succession, first firing just wide of the target after exchanging passes with Coombs 30-yards from goal and then seeing a well-taken free kick saved by the ‘keeper.
Midway through the first half, with the Reds pressure continuing to build, Charles rifling effort from the edge of the back came crashing back off the post and the ball landed at the feet of Van De Sanden who in turn fed through Weir. The nominee for the PFA Player of the Year took a crack at goal that was handled in the area and Greenwood stepped up, eluding the goalie to coolly convert the penalty.
In defence Reds Players’ Player of the Year Ingle seamlessly slotted back in alongside Bonner and Liverpool defended well as a unit; Hodson got the better of Kelly Snook after she looked to have been put through by Nia Jones while Ingle got across to snuff out a well-worked counter attack from the hosts.
The Reds then impressed on a quick counter of their own, Bonner and Coombs teaming up to clear a Yeovil set piece and Liverpool fast out of the blocks in a move that ended with Harding’s hit deflected wide.
Greenwood took the resulting corner that bounced once in the box before Reds captain Bonner prodded the ball home from 6-yards.
Liverpool continued committing players forward as they kicked off the second half, Weir slipping the ball wide to Greenwood and her cross flicked on by Harding yet Van De Sanden unable to reach it.
Greenwood was up and down the left flank all afternoon, not shirking from her defensive duties as shown when the England left-back chased down Yeovil’s Lucy Quinn and strongly won the ball back for the Reds.
The chances were flowing for Liverpool; Coombs could only guide a Van De Sanden cross over the crossbar while the Van De Sanden seen a rocket of a shot initially spilled by the ‘keeper who recovered quickly under the threat of the looming Coombs.
With 30 minutes to play Zelem entered the field to replace Weir and had the ball in the back of the net seven minutes later – tapping Van De Sanden’s low ball past Haynes.
The game threatened to hit a lull with the Reds in cruise control and three-nil ahead. The perfect time then for Liverpool boss Scott Rogers to introduce exciting new signing Jess Clarke, the winger signed from the new-defunct Notts County Ladies before the transfer window shut earlier this month.
Clarke sparked the tie back into life and immediately flung herself into the action, curling a strike from 25-yards towards the near post however Haynes had it covered.
Then, just after Yeovil had had claims for a penalty of their own waved away by the referee, the unforgiving Reds made it four through the same combination of the third – Van De Sanden once more teeing up Zelem.
Yeovil had the penalty they had been crying out for with thirteen minutes left on the clock, a controversial spot kick awarded against Sophie Ingle and Sarah Wiltshire scoring a consolation for the large home crowd.
With the three points secured Rogers also introduced 16-year old Amy Rodgers for her first team debut. Rodgers signed for the Reds Development side from Manchester United and has impressed during their successful season so far.
Another substitute that refused to shy away from the action, Rodgers was straight in combining with Coombs to win the ball in midfield and strongly heading away an Annie Heatherson cross.
Liverpool Ladies are back in action on Friday night, the Reds play Reading Women at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes at 7pm. Entry for all LFC season ticket holders and members is free of charge, alternatively adults pay just £6 on the gate.
LIVERPOOL LADIES:Chamberlain, Hodson, Bonner ©, Ingle, Greenwood, Longhurst (Rodgers), Coombs, Weir (Zelem), Van De Sanden, Charles (Clarke), Harding