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!

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