LFC WomenMatt Beard column: Selection headaches, Leicester and 'fantastic' Fuka Nagano
In his latest column, Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard reflects on the win over Reading, previews Sunday's home game with Leicester City, hails the impact of recent signing Fuka Nagano and welcomes his selection headaches.
It was an important three points for us against Reading last Sunday in the Barclays Women’s Super League and I felt it was thoroughly deserved.
I’d seen the results the day before and, obviously with Reading just below us in the table, that win gives us a bit of daylight. It was good to go above Tottenham and get closer to West Ham and Aston Villa.
We knew it would be a tough game and sometimes, like it was in the first half, these games can be like a game of chess. We showed the players where the spaces were at half-time and we started to stretch them and the game became a bit more open.
Highlights: LFC Women 2-0 Reading
If you look at our first goal, it was a bit of a scrappy one but a goal is a goal at the end of the day. For the second one, obviously Megan Campbell’s throw is such a weapon for us – I was delighted we scored from it, we haven’t made enough of them this season.
It was great for Ceri Holland to score again on her 50th appearance for the club. We spoke with Ceri the day before about making these runs and she said to me after the game, ‘Finish your runs Beardy, finish your runs!’
Fuka Nagano coming in has made a big difference to us, and it’s given Ceri and Missy Bo Kearns more freedom to get forward in those higher positions.
You just look at Fuka’s performance against Reading, it was just so enjoyable to watch and she is going to make a big difference to this team, who will continue to get better.
She is a fantastic player and she is a great person as well – very grounded, always smiling. We are very lucky that we managed to bring her in.
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It was great to see Missy Bo get a goal and I firmly believe she is capable of doing that on a regular basis.
She is such a creative player and a creative spark. The first few months of this season were tough for her because when you step out of the Championship into the WSL, it’s a completely different level.
It’s taken her a little bit of time to adjust but with Fuka now in there as well she has a bit more freedom to add that creative spark, and I’m delighted she got her goal.
It was great to give a debut to another one of our recent signings, Miri Taylor, when she came off the bench against Reading as we made a couple of changes just to make sure we saw the game out.
Unfortunately, just before the Chelsea game she picked up an injury that has kept her out, but I’m delighted to give her a debut and last Sunday was a good day all round for us.
Our supporters were absolutely fantastic once again. They were singing the players’ songs and all sorts – even Dame Heather Carroll got a song, bless her, which was great.
Whether we have been winning or losing, they have always supported us and we are so grateful for that. They do make a huge difference. There is a special bond between us and the supporters, and it’s great that it has continued.
On Sunday, we welcome Leicester City to Prenton Park – in a game you can watch live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO – with kick-off scheduled for 2pm GMT.
Their manager Willie Kirk will have them organised. I watched their last game against Manchester City and also saw their game against Reading in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.
It’s a completely different team to the one that we would have faced in December when the game was called off due to a frozen pitch.
Defensively they look organised and Willie has a way of playing and he is implementing that at Leicester now. They have made a lot of changes and brought five players in.
But we are in a good place and in a good position in the table. They need to win the game, and we just need to concentrate on ourselves, get our heads down and hopefully repeat what we did against Reading.
I’ve got a great selection headache now – which I want – because Natasha Dowie is ready for her second debut on Sunday.
Hopefully our captain Niamh Fahey will be available for selection as well after missing the Reading game. So, I’ve got some proper selection headaches but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since that bad day against Manchester United, the way the whole squad has trained and helped the XI that started that game, you can definitely see the togetherness of this group.
For me, the players who are not starting are just as important because they are getting their head down, working hard, while at the same time helping us prepare for the games. I want to praise them as well for their professionalism and the way they have been going about things.
Tats has been brilliant since she came in. She’s just an infectious person, a cheeky laugh and just watching her back in training and seeing her professionalism and the standards that she drives, there’s been a few good battles already.
We have brought in a great mixture of youth and experience. If you look at Sofie Lundgaard (20), Fuka (23), and Miri (23), and adding Gemma Bonner and Tats to that, we have good balance in this squad now, with people on different parts of their football journey.
For Tats to come back here, this is a club she supports and she had a lot of success here. So with Leanne Kiernan and Shanice van de Sanden out, it’s a win-win situation. She will play an important part for us between now and the end of the season.
It was announced on Monday that our away Merseyside derby against Everton will be played at Goodison Park on Sunday March 26.
It will be a great occasion and hopefully from our perspective Everton can feel the pressure that we felt at Anfield! It does have an added pressure but it’s fantastic to play this game at the first-team stadiums.
We also said a fond farewell to Rachel Furness, who departed for Bristol City last week, and we wish her nothing but the best for the future.
Furney’s role had changed this season but she has been fantastic and been nothing but professional. She has been a great servant to this football club.
She was out of contract in the summer and we had three or four enquiries for her. I sat down with her and we gave her the opportunity to speak to other clubs, and I think she liked what she heard from her discussions with Bristol City.
At the end of the day, she has been a great servant to us and she will be a loss in the dressing room but, of course, we wish her all the best for her future.
It’s a great signing for my former club Bristol City. They have got a young side and with Furney’s experience and her threat from set plays and scoring goals she will do well there.
Bristol City is a club that’s on the up, so it will be interesting to see how it goes between now and the end of the season.
As always, thank you for your continued support.
Matt Beard was speaking to Liverpoolfc.com's Steve Hunter