Prenton Park ahead of the FA Women's Championship fixture between Liverpool and Durham - Image by The FA photographer

‘Everyone’s fighting for a shirt’ says Liverpool caretaker Whiteley

Liverpool returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over London Bees at Prenton Park yesterday.

The win marked interim manager Amber Whiteley’s first victory since taking over from Vicky Jepson after she recently parted ways with the club.

Whiteley was naturally very pleased to have chalked up her first win when speaking in the post-match press conference in which FAWSL Full-Time were present.

“It’s really good to get the first win” Whiteley said following Sunday’s victory. “I think it’s a sign of the work that has gone in on the training ground and on the free weekends.”

The starting line-up raised a few curious eyebrows in the press box prior to kick-off with star players Mel Lawley and Rachel Furness on the bench while Rinsola Babajide was left out of the squad entirely.

Speaking about her team selection, Whiteley added “I had a bit of a selection headache coming into this weekend and that is exactly how it should be.

“It’s been competitive in training, everyone’s fighting for a shirt.”

Whiteley’s selections proved to be the correct ones as her side took the lead in the opening 10 minutes through Becky Jane.

Despite taking their lead into half-time, London Bees looked much the better side and the most likely to get the next goal after the interval. They very nearly had it when on-loan Reading midfielder Sophie Quirk struck the crossbar halfway through the second period.

Nevertheless, when The Bees threatened to overwhelm the Merseyside club, Whiteley took decisive action and introduced Furness, Lawley, and Amy Rodgers into the fold. These substitutions proved to be crucial as both Lawley and Furness provided the assists for Liverpool’s second and third goals which put the fixture beyond the side from the capital.

“I thought we started the game really well, scored a really good goal” said Whiteley. “There was work to be done in the second half and I thought the three players who came into the game had a really good impact.

“I think it shows the importance of the team. You can’t just rely on the 11 who start the game, you need a squad to win you games and to win you championships.”

The impressive displays of both Furness and Lawley if anything, draw greater attention to the absence of Babajide. It has been reported that the Liverpool and England international winger had handed in a transfer request following the departure of Jepson, however, Whiteley remained tight-lipped regarding the future of the Liverpool number 10.

She commented on the situation by saying “Rins wasn’t available for selection but we’ve been working hard with Rins in the background to get her back to full fitness.”

It is possible that we may have seen the last of Babajide in a red shirt but the possibility also remains that the club can resolve any issue and she will see out the remainder of her contract.

With Liverpool sitting in fourth place in the FA Women’s Championship table and 10 points behind league leaders Leicester City, the chance of promotion is looking increasingly unlikely. Despite the club being set to face another season in the second tier, the hard work is still being done by interim boss Whiteley.

“The aim is to lay good foundations now for going forward for next season” stated Whiteley. “But it is for us to push the teams around us, so Sheffield, Durham, Leicester, we went to push them as hard as we can.”

Liverpool stand three points behind third-placed Sheffield United with a game in-hand so it is very possible that The Reds could leapfrog The Blades into the top three. The gap with the top two is probably too great for even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans but under Whiteley they can still put a good run together before the end of the season and give them the momentum they need going into the next campaign.

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