Welcome to @LFCladiesfans Spring Series review, including: fixtures, results, analysis, every game, every goal, attendances, awards, more goals, the title winning Development Squad and your @LFCladiesfans Player of the Series.
Upon it’s announcement The FA Women’s Super League Spring Series was initially met with doubt from supporters and critics alike, wondering if these games would merely be a glorified run of friendlies. However the series has been highly competitive and seen impressive and entertaining play, while being wholly accessible to fans from all around the world.
BBC has streamed a number of games on either the BBC Sport website or via the Red Button. Teams around the league have also streamed games live on Facebook, YouTube and official in-house television channels.
A quick glance at the figures from the official Liverpool Ladies Facebook page shows over 325,000 viewers tuned in to watch the 4-0 victory over Sunderland. The video prompted almost 2,000 reactions, over 1,000 comments and was shared 404 times.
Liverpool manager Scott Rogers has fielded 17 players across the series, handing debuts to youth players Ali Johnson, Ellie Fletcher and Amy Rodgers – while Paige Cole, Serena Fletcher and Megan Taylor have also been involved in and around the first team.
The Reds produced genuinely exciting football, scoring plenty and going on a six-game unbeaten stretch. The back-to-back defeats to Chelsea and Man City at the end of the series providing scope for Rogers and his team to work on improvements ahead of the season proper – albeit hopefully with a full defence to choose from!
Fixtures & Results
W 8 / D 2 / L 4
Natasha Harding | 6 | vs Everton, Notts, Reading x 2, Arsenal, Sunderland
Caroline Weir | 6 | vs Notts, Reading, Arsenal, Sunderland x 2, Man City
Gemma Bonner | 3 | vs Yeovil, Arsenal, Birmingham
Katie Zelem | 3 | vs Yeovil x 2, Bristol
Alex Greenwood | 2 | vs Yeovil, Arsenal
Shanice Van De Sanden | 1 | vs Everton
Laura Coombs | 1 | vs Reading
Jess Clarke | 1 | vs Birmingham
Casey Stoney | 1 | vs Sunderland
Liverpool Ladies played Hibernian, Sheffield and Fylde in three behind-closed-doors friendlies prior to starting their competitive campaign; recording three consecutive victories.
First up Caroline Weir scored twice against her former club Hibs at the Select Stadium, including one trademark strike from 30-yards. The Reds defeated the Scottish Cup winners 3-0 with Natasha Harding also registering her first goal of the year.
Then the Reds took on Sheffield at the Liverpool Academy in Kirby. The WSL2 side had already started their Spring Series in the second division and scored twice through recent signing from Fylde, Lagan Makin.
However Liverpool replied with five strikes of their own; Mollie Green, Gemma Bonner, Martha Harris and two from Shanice Van De Sanden sealing a 5-2 win.
The final pre-season game came while many first team players were away with their countries on international duty, handing manager Scott Rogers a look at several youth players.
Mollie Green scored twice either side of Demi Devereux’s equaliser and Lizzie Earle came from the bench to net the third in a 3-1 win.
The SSE FA Women’s Cup
Liverpool Ladies 2 Everton Ladies 1
In the first competitive action of the year the Reds faced Everton Ladies in The FA Cup, playing 120 minutes as they knocked the Blues out of the cup.
Tash Harding struck first after just eight minutes; Sophie Ingle playing an incredible ball over the top and out towards Caroline Weir, who crossed the ball into Harding.
The attacking play in the first half was a sign of things to come in the upcoming Spring Series. Short, sharp passes, probing runs and interchanging forward players eluding the Everton defence.
Development squad star Ali Johnson made her first team debut on the afternoon and went closest to doubling the lead. Skipping past her marker to curl a strike towards the top corner, one that had Blues ‘keeper Kirsty Levell at full stretch to push wide.
Everton went on to win FAWSL 2’s Spring Series and following a successful application have been promoted to the top tier for 2017/18 in place of the Reds next FA Cup opponents…
Liverpool Ladies 2 Notts County Ladies 0
In what would turn out to be Notts County Ladies final ever game due to folding, the Reds triumphed over the Lady Pies to reach the Cup semi-finals.
It took Liverpool just three minutes to strike first. Weir forcing Carly Telford into an uncharacteristic error as the referee had waved play on for a foul on Kate Longhurst.
Liverpool were defensively sound throughout the 90 minutes with Ashley Hodson a stand out performer at right-back, rising highest to head Angharad James’ set piece clear.
County went closest to an equaliser yet were denied by Siobhan Chamberlain who stretched to push Rachel Williams shot around the post, Casey Stoney cleared Dani Buet’s resulting corner off the line.
The lead was doubled midway through the second half, the Reds breaking quickly and Weir playing a neat pass for Harding to race on to. Harding curling an impressive strike around Telford and confirming Liverpool’s place in the semi-finals.
Man City Women 1 Liverpool Ladies 0
A tough afternoon for Rogers’ side with Weir only able to play the final twenty minutes of the tie due to injury.
Chances were few and far between for either side, yet Liverpool defended brilliantly against a City side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The only goal of the game came as England U23 international Melissa Lawley curled an effort from outside the box into the bottom corner in the 57th minute.
With Weir and Johnson coming from the bench to provide reinforcements, Greenwood tried her luck from distance only to watch her strike fly over the crossbar and Weir’s searing strike in injury time was saved by Karen Bardsley.
City went on to lift the Cup at Wembley, defeating Birmingham City 4-1.
FA Women’s Super League Spring Series
Yeovil Town Ladies 1 Liverpool Ladies 4
In a game that has since become remembered more for the missing kit mishap than the free-flowing attacking play from Liverpool, credit must go to the Reds for keeping their composure in a tough Spring Series opener at Hush Park.
Alex Greenwood encompassing that composure as she stepped up to take a spot kick, calmly slotting home the penalty to give Liverpool the lead.
The lead was twice almost doubled by Caroline Weir, first exchanging passes with Laura Coombs before firing inches wide from 30-yards and then seeing a free kick saved by the ‘keeper.
Captain Gemma Bonner then produced a finish from close range to convert Greenwood’s corner on the stroke of half-time, raising two fists to the jubilant travelling supporters in celebration.
In the second half Katie Zelem came from the bench to net twice, Shanice Van De Sanden with both assists as Zelem arrived in the box to tap two low drives over the line.
Late in the game the hosts pulled a goal back from the spot, Sarah Wiltshire netting following a bizarre decision from the referee.
On the whole an enjoyable away trip to the South West, Yeovil produced a great atmosphere and friendly welcome.
Liverpool Ladies 4 Reading Women 2
Harding shone up front in this convincing 4-2 win over Reading Women in Widnes, the forward with a hand in every game as the Reds secured their second win of the series.
The Wales vice-captain first had the ball in the back of the net after just 66 seconds, Niamh Charles and Greenwood had combined to move the ball up the pitch to Harding who swung a strike around Mary Earps.
Reading clawed their way back into the game in what was a topsy-turvy opening, scoring twice through Harding’s international team mate Melissa Fletcher and Rachel Furness to edge into the lead.
Harding however had other ideas, striking an equaliser midway through the half an then playing through Alex Greenwood who set Weir up to put the Reds back in front.
Further extending the lead in the second half, Harding sent a cross whizzing across the face of goal that was converted by Laura Coombs to round off the victory.
Arsenal Ladies 4 Liverpool Ladies 4
Liverpool continued an impressive unbeaten run away at Arsenal in the FAWSL with this thrilling 4-4 draw on a Thursday evening at The Hive.
Greenwood had been a source of opportunity for the Reds via set pieces so far in the Series and here netted herself directly from a corner.
The lead initially short-lived as Chloe Kelly struck an equaliser, yet Harding and Weir putting Liverpool 3-1 up at the break.
The game still had plenty of goals to come in the second half, the brilliant Danielle Carter netting twice before Jordan Nobbs hit a superb strike past Chamberlain to put the Gunners ahead for the first time with ten minutes to play.
Unperturbed the Reds would not let their heads drop and only minutes later Bonner rose to head a Greenwood corner into the back of the net and secure a point for her side.
Birmingham City Ladies 0 Liverpool Ladies 2
Jess Clarke made her first start for Liverpool against FA Cup finalists Birmingham City at St. Andrews stadium and marked the occasion with her first goal.
Three minutes into the second half and an assist from – who else – Greenwood as Clarke headed her cross past Ann-Katrin Berger.
Birmingham responded by hitting the crossbar twice through Freda Ayisi, Ellen White forcing Chamberlain into a great close-range save and Ashley Hodson doing well to prevent a Jess Carter ball meeting it’s intended target.
Liverpool sealed the win as Bonner scored her third goal in four games, another set piece curled into the area by Greenwood that was flicked on by Kate Longhurst and finished by Bonner.
Liverpool Ladies 4 Sunderland Ladies 0
Scoring four goals for the fourth time in five games and their second clean sheet in two, Liverpool turned out a near-perfect display against a Sunderland side that hadn’t yet conceded in the league.
Weir opened the scoring after bringing down Chamberlain’s long ball on the half way line to skip past a Sunderland shirt, swinging the ball into the back of the net from distance.
Confidence was pulsing through the side, the passing sure and steady with Liverpool sweeping the ball across the pitch with ease, comfortable to patiently build their attack.
Greenwood slipped Harding through to double the Reds lead and – after Johnson came from the bench to tee up Weir for the third – also set up Stoney. The fourth goal impressively Greenwood’s seventh assist of the year. That’s seven assists, in five games.
Bristol City Women 1 Liverpool Ladies 1
Following a promising run Liverpool came up against a well-drilled Bristol defence that were happy to sit back and invite them to attack.
The Reds found it tough to break Willie Kirk’s young side down, chances during the first half were sparse and were unable to capitalise from corners as they had in recent weeks – Bonner beaten to one by Jodie Brett and then heading another wide.
Zelem came on for Weir with half an hour left on the clock, announcing her arrival with a 40-yard hit that landed in the arms of the goalkeeper.
The super sub soon found the back of the net, tapping home Van De Sanden’s cross to put the Reds ahead.
Liverpool lost Greenwood to injury during the second half and also lost her replacement Longhurst to a questionable second yellow card, as Bristol scored an equaliser through a substitute of their own – Lily Agg securing a point for the Vixens late in the game.
Chelsea Ladies 7 Liverpool Ladies 0
Rogers has called this a freak result and it was a uncharacteristic display from his side that were until this point unbeaten in the Spring Series.
The first goal came in the opening minutes, Gilly Flaherty’s header bouncing into the back of the net from a corner, yet after this the tie seemed perfectly balanced.
Liverpool were showing why they were top of the league with promising build up play and daring runs.
However two more goals came in quick succession before half-time and Chelsea, sensing blood, put the Reds to the sword in the second half with four more goals.
Liverpool Ladies 1 Man City Women 3
The scoreline somewhat flatters Manchester City as Liverpool dominated long swathes of the game, their North West opponents simply converting their chances on the final day of the Spring Series.
City went in two-nil up at half-time with goals from Jill Scott and Melissa Lawley, then found themselves 3-0 ahead with Megan Campbell coming from the bench to net a free kick from an audacious angle.
Liverpool fought back; Clarke agonisingly close to a couple of crosses, Harding almost pressuring the City defence into a mistake and Bonner unable to direct a header on target following Coombs’ corner.
Weir ensured Liverpool would have the final say, scoring the final goal of the series to net a late consolation for the Reds as her left-footed effort crashed in off the post and over the line.
Player of the Spring Series
Prior to the start of the Spring Series there were plenty of questions of who would lead the line for Liverpool Ladies, enter Natasha Harding.
The winger had scored three goals in her first season at the club in 2016 in a wide role; yet was moved into a central position here proving the ideal candidate to lead the roving attack, with excellent link-up play and an intimidating presence that shaped the Reds forward line.
Harding started the year in perfect form, netting against Everton and Notts County in The FA Cup and then continuing that goal scoring run in the Spring Series. A double against Reading, a real poachers effort against Arsenal and hitting one past Sunderland.
In the game against Reading at Widnes, as well as scoring twice, Harding also provided an assist and played the pass that led to the fourth in what was truly an exemplary display.
Tash finished joint top scorer alongside Caroline Weir as she found her best form since joining the club, supporters have plenty to look forward to when the 2017/18 season comes around.
Second: Caroline Weir
Still frighteningly young, the Scot is the heartbeat of the Reds midfield and the catalyst at the centre of the attack. Her vision to shoot from distance unrivalled and her mark on the team best displayed by her cameo against City in the Cup. Weir’s presence in the team is magnificent and her ability to play her way out of tight spaces under pressure impressive.
Third: Alex Greenwood
Another enjoying her best form since joining the club, brilliant going forward and forming an excellent partnership with Niamh Charles on the left. Provided assist after assist with seven in total and chipped in with two goals of her own – including a corner that went straight into the top corner away at Arsenal. Greenwood’s presence was greatly missed as injury forced her out of the final two games.
Young Player of the Spring Series
Continuing her impressive rise through the ranks at the club, former U17 captain Niamh Charles enjoyed a run in the first team during the Spring Series.
The young forward had shone in a series of cameo appearances in 2016 and was handed the opportunity to further her progression, forming a good partnership on the left with Alex Greenwood. Covering the full-back as she bombed forward and also linking up brilliantly with Tash Harding up front.
Charles produced her best performance in the first 45-minutes away at Arsenal, including producing a sublime effort that the goalkeeper somehow managed to tip away.
Also continues to rise up through the age levels at England and will only continue to get better.
Game of the Spring Series
As free scoring Liverpool came up against yet-to-concede Sunderland, many expected a tight contest.
These expectations were undone early in the contest; Caroline Weir waltzing her way past a couple of Sunderland shirts and striking a now trademark effort past Anke Preuss.
Weir also added a second in-between goals from Harding and Stoney as the Reds defence produced a resolute display to claim a second clean sheet in as many games.
Despite the fact Weir hits these kind of goals on a regular basis, they are never less impressive and it would have taken something special to take Goal of the Spring Series away from the Scot.
video via Kopzone (Instagram)
Moment of the Spring Series
“Gem Bon’s on fire, your defence is terrified…”
Away at FA Cup finalists Birmingham City, playing them at St. Andrews on a sunny afternoon in May, one-nil up with less than ten minutes remaining and Alex Greenwood swings in a set piece.
Liverpool captain Gemma Bonner had already netted twice, against Yeovil and Arsenal, and rose once more here to head home, securing three important points.
Cue the crowd, “Gem Bon’s on fire, your defence is terrified…”.
The sudden outburst a sign of delirium from the travelling supporters, ending a run of tough away games at Birmingham and watching the Reds and Bonner be absolutely boss and better than Birmingham in every way.
Signing of the Spring Series
As the Series fast approached and signings were looking thin on the ground, the announcement of Laura Coombs on a permanent transfer from Chelsea Ladies was a move greatly welcomed by supporters.
Coombs had enjoyed a fine season in Red in 2016 while on loan from the Londoners and was once more a mainstay of the Liverpool midfield through the campaign.
The number eight is a solid midfield partner for Sophie Ingle and the perfect back up for the forward line with her clever runs, passing and the ability to patrol the midfield box-to-box.
In 2017 Kate Longhurst has been reduced to a number of appearances from the bench and received a ridiculous sending off away at Bristol City.
Yet this failed to stop the passion from Liverpool’s number seven every time she took to the field, giving 110% in every performance. Ever-versatile and willing to fill in where needed, her battling, gritty display in the Cup derby against Everton over 120 minutes the perfect encapsulation of her game.
The midfielder’s on-pitch presence and personality both on and off the field has made Kate a firm fan-favourite since joining the club in 2013.
Vick Jepson’s Development Squad sealed the Northern Development League title with a final day 4-1 win over Durham WFC.
In typical Liverpool F.C. fashion the young Reds won the trophy the hard way, battling their way through an injury-hit year – goalkeeper Jess Carberry played a number of games up front as the Reds struggled to field an eleven at some points.
Even in that final game Liverpool went a goal down, only to come out for the second half and hit four goals past Durham.
A total of 23 players featured across the course of the campaign, familiar faces Emilie Revitt – making a welcome return from a long injury lay-off – and Shannon Beckwith joined by players promoted from the club’s RTC and from elsewhere; Amy Rodgers, Ellie Fletcher and Levi Rathburn arriving from Manchester United.
Lou Ainscow finished top scorer with ten strikes to her name, followed by Ali Johnson with nine (including an impressive hat-trick against Aston Villa) and Niamh Charles and Mollie Green with seven apiece.
As a testament to the hard work put in by the team and staff over the course of the season, a number of players were handed squad number prior to the first team Spring Series – Paige Cole, Ellie Fletcher, Serena Fletcher, Megan Taylor, Ali Johnson and Amy Rodgers.
Several of those have made their debuts since, Ali Johnson setting up the winning goal against Everton in The FA Cup and both E.Fletcher and Rodgers also handed debuts by Scott Rogers.
Development Squad Player of the Season
Development Squad captain Ellie Fletcher arrived from Manchester United RTC last summer and has enjoyed a wholly successful first twelve months with the club.
The young centre-back featured thirteen times across the course of the season, playing alongside a host of partners in central defence.
Ellie’s reading of the game is already excellent, swiftly breaking up opposition attacking play and then looking to bring the ball out from the back. Ellie’s communication with the rest of her team is also key to her role in the side.
Despite missing several games towards the end of the Development season due to injury, Ellie returned as the side secured their league title with a 4-1 victory over Durham – also making her debut for the first team during the FAWSL Spring Series.
Finally, thank you for following @LFCladiesfans over the course of this Spring Series. I’m very proud that the blog is now into it’s fifth year, with six(!) league title winning sides having been reported on in that time.