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Blues Ladies 0 Everton Ladies 0

Posted: Thu 17 Apr 2014
Author: Chris Quinn

A third clean sheet in four games meant Blues Ladies got their FA WSL campaign off to an unbeaten start as they drew 0-0 with Everton Ladies at the Autotech Stadium.

After shutting out Arsenal over two legs in their Champions League quarter-final, a much-changed Blues side again showed its defensive resilience and will feel they could have taken all three points from their opening domestic league game.

Aoife Mannion, Jess Carter, Emily Simpkins, Katie Wilkinson and Hannah Keryakoplis were all brought in to the side following Sunday’s 3-1 FA Women’s Cup fifth round victory over Doncaster Belles, with the latter making her first start for the club since a winter move from Stoke City.

The visitors lost star striker Toni Duggan in the close season, but they almost took the lead after seven minutes through the player tasked with filling her boots. A corner from the visitors’ left found the head of striker Nikita Parris, but her header from six yards out was straight at Blues goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer who held well.

Most of Blues' joy in the first-half came down the left-hand side where captain Karen Carney, who was playing at the point of a diamond and given a seemingly free role, had the constant beating of Everton full-back Billie Murphy.

Blues’ best first-half chance came in the 25th minute when debutant Keryakoplis embarrassed Everton defender Fern Whelan with a clever feint and turn before firing a ball across goal which Simpkins just failed to get a touch on.

Both sides were lacking a clinical edge in front of goal and Blues manager David Parker was first to try and address this by replacing Wilkinson and Cristina Torkildsen with Kirsty Linnett and Remi Allen respectively at the break.

But it was the visitors who could have opened the scoring just two minutes into the second half. A ball from the left-hand side evaded captain Michelle Hinnigan but found Murphy at the back post, but her close-range effort was fantastically smothered by Spencer in the home goal.

A minute past the hour mark saw Jo Potter replace Emily Simpkins in Blues’ final change and she began to dictate the tempo of the remaining minutes from centre-midfield. Five minutes later, fellow sub Allen had a penalty shout turned down before firing a loose ball straight at Toffees ‘keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis.

In the 70th minute, Keryakoplis again did well down the flanks and when she fired a right-wing cross within six yards of goal, Linnett couldn’t quite stretch enough to convert a golden opportunity.

That miss almost looked even more costly when, in the 76th minute, Everton struck the woodwork. A scuffed effort from the edge of the area found Toffees debutant Danielle Turner who fired a near-post strike off the Blues post.

Blues responded by rattling the crossbar shortly after. When Linnett got away from her marker, she took aim and fired a rasping effort that looked to be dipping in before rattling the frame of the goal with Brown-Finnis beaten.

It would not have been an undeserved winner for the home side, who controlled the possession of the game throughout in front of a crowd of 657.

Another shutout was the main positive for Parker and he will be hoping his side can make it a quartet of clean sheets when they host Swedish side Tyreso FF on Saturday - as attentions now turn to Blues’ historic Champions League semi-final.

Blues Ladies: Spencer, Sargeant, Mannion, Harrop, Carter; Carney, Moore, Torkildsen (Allen, 46), Simpkins (Potter. 61); Wilkinson (Linnett, 46), Keryakoplis.
Subs not used: Baggaley, Potter, Lawley, Brown, Haines.

Everton Ladies: Brown Finnis, Greenwood, Chaplen, Whelan, Johnson, Handley, Hinnigan, Parris, Jones, Turner (Magill, 77), Murphy.
Subs not used: Jones, Whipp, George, Turner, Walsh, Hayes.

Attendance: 657

Player of the Match: Karen Carney