In his latest column, Liverpool FC Women manager Matt Beard looks forward to Sunday's FA Women's Championship home clash with Crystal Palace and reflects on Ashley Hodson breaking the club appearance record.

It’s great to be back in action after the international break on Sunday as we welcome Crystal Palace to Prenton Park. We are eager to get our first home victory of the season and we have had a very good week of training with the girls working ever so hard. I’m pleased with the progress we are making. 

Obviously, we would have preferred to have got more wins so far but I’m confident that will come. What we have seen so far is teams are making it difficult for us when they come to Prenton Park and we have to adapt to that and make sure that we work on certain bits of our play to be better.

We made changes in the close season and brought in eight new players, and we recently added Georgia Walters on a non-contract basis and brought in some new staff as well. 

We have unfortunately had some injuries as well and obviously we will be without Niamh Fahey against Crystal Palace, who has to sit the game out with a one-game ban after her sending-off against Bristol City.

We had a few challenges thrown at us in the pre-season with COVID-19 and a few other things but this league so far, I think, has proven how tough it is going to be this season. Everyone apart from Sunderland has lost a game, so if we can win Sunday and the teams above us drop points we will be in that top half of the table again. 

So, overall I’m pleased with the progress that we are making but we know that we are still not the finished article. We have plenty to work on and improve on but overall I’m in a buoyant mood with where we are right now.

Our fans have been fantastic and hopefully we can do them proud on Sunday. From our perspective, we are so grateful for their support and we are so desperate to get that win at home so we can get that one ticked off. If we can do that, that would mean we would be three games unbeaten and can continue to look forward.

Again, Crystal Palace will be tough. They are organised and can play numerous ways. They are very dangerous on set-plays, they are scoring goals. We know everyone that plays against us always raises their game. I think their manager, Dean Davenport, has done a great job. Every year under him they have improved and their recruitment has been very good bringing in players from the WSL. So, it’s another tough test for us.

I have to say a massive congratulations to Ashley Hodson, who surpassed my former captain Gemma Bonner to become Liverpool FC Women’s all-time record appearance holder in the professional game.

I remember I gave Ash her debut for this club. I remember watching her playing for our reserve team when she had come back from an ACL injury the year before. What I liked about her was how direct she was, how quick she was and she was a good finisher.

So far she has had a great career with this club and I believe there is more to come from Ash. She has had some serious injuries throughout her time here, so for her to be at this club from a kid and to go on and beat Gemma’s record speaks volumes. She is getting back to full sharpness now after her hamstring injury and I feel she is impacting games when she has come off the bench so far this season. She has definitely developed on the pitch as a player and I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen. 

I think the next stage now for Ash over the next month or so is to stake a claim to be in the starting XI. She is Liverpool FC Women through and through and I’m delighted for her that she has broken that record. Gemma’s message about her spoke volumes for Ash as a person.

It was fantastic to welcome back Yana Daniels for the Bristol City game and hopefully she can stay injury-free for us between now and the end of the season. Yana offers us something different in the forward line and she can cause defences all sorts of problems. I worked with Yana at Bristol City and I know what she is capable of.

Thanks for your support as always,