If Lincoln’s 2-0 win over Everton last Sunday was “one of the best in the club’s history”, a comprehensive victory at home to Liverpool must have had manager Rod Wilson positively purring as the Lady Imps came from behind to keep their dreams of finishing fourth in the Women’s Super League alive.
Like Lincoln, Liverpool came into the game buoyed by a victory the previous week, Robbie Johnson’s side defeating Chelsea in what was their first win of the season.
The two sides faced each other in the reverse fixture back in May with Lincoln midfielder Lucy Stanifold scoring the solitary goal to give Lincoln the victory.
Between them, the two sides had only scored fifteen goals prior to this match-up so a goal-filled game was not really expected.
Right from the off, though, it was clear that both teams wanted to attack at will and two misjudgements from Lincoln goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs created havoc in her own penalty area early on. With ten minutes gone Hobbs failed to claim the ball with little pressure on only to recover well, blocking Chloe Jones’ shot from close-range. Just minutes later Jones’s freekick from the right found Nicola Twohig at the back post, towering over Megan Harris and heading past a flailing Hobbs to give Liverpool a deserved lead.
Lincoln began to grow into the game in front of the Sincil Bank crowd as Stanifold and Allen worked tirelessly in midfield, although Hobbs again underestimated the flight of the ball and could only watch on as, eventually, Nicki Harding crashed a shot against the bar from just outside the area.
It was the home team, though, who scored next. The equaliser was steeped in controversy as Sue Smith’s corner appeared to be finished off by Leandra Little, who seemed to use her hand to draw the teams level. The in-swinging corner was heading towards goal anyway but the Liverpool defence struggled to cope with the power and sheer height of Little.
Some poor defending in The Reds’ penalty area again then saw Lincoln take the lead – Casey Stoney bundling in after desperate defensive play from Vicky Jones and Gibbons. Liverpool levelled again, though, just moments later – and just before half-time – as Katie Brusell’s fearsome shot was deflected into the top corner.
It was straight from a Smith corner once more that Liverpool took the lead shortly after the break. While the goal was less controversial, the defending on show from a Liverpool perspective was just as poor as Smith’s first, with Vicky Jones unable to keep the ball out at the front post. Lincoln clearly realised that their opposition were poor at dealing with high balls into the box, especially ones that were as fast-paced and dangerous as Smith’s corners, as the delivery from the wings was constantly threatening.
The front three for Lincoln – Smith, Jodie Taylor and Jess Clarke – weren’t exactly fluid, but they didn’t need to be; Smith and Clarke were able to double up on full-backs and Clarke, particularly, was able to roam free, sometimes through the middle but mostly hugging either touchline. This meant that Taylor could feed off the players behind her, dragging defenders away from her teammates and showcasing her excellent movement.
Clarke herself got on the scoresheet, tapping home after Little – who was put up front after Mel Sutcliffe came on for Taylor – saw her header crash against the post. The goal was something of a reward for Clarke’s diligent and relentless wing-work and, although Smith and central-midfielder Remi Allen also put in superb performances, Clarke was the most direct and menacing player on the pitch.
There were late chances for Liverpool – Chloe Jones had a shot bravely blocked by Stoney, Michelle Evans cracked a volley against the bar and Kelly Jones, after good hold-up play from Evans, smacked a shot straight into the hands of Hobbs. But Lincoln controlled the second half, dominated parts of the first and deserved the victory overall.