Match report: Reds U16s defeat Leeds United to stay in title race
Liverpool Ladies U16s 1-0 victory over Leeds United U16s in the RTC Tier 1 North U16 league has the Reds just three goals behind Manchester United at the top of the table.
Victory in their penultimate game of the season leaves Liverpool Ladies U16s second in the league table on goal difference, three goals behind first-placed Manchester United U16s.
The young Reds dominated for the majority of the game yet were met with resilient defending from bottom-of-the-league Leeds United.
From the opening whistle Liverpool looked the side most likely to open the scoring, central midfielder Bourne picking a series of key passes and also putting several threatening set pieces into the box.
The first of the these set pieces had Leeds struggling to clear their lines. Reds number seven Jevons took advantage of this, twisting and turning before laying the ball back to team captain Barlow who fired an effort over the crossbar.
Liverpool were also comfortable playing out from the back, Barlow alongside her centre half partner Beard - who strongly won a number of headers to break up play - and the two full-backs both impressing. Left-back Hickey barrelling up and down the wing - classy on the ball and determined in the tackle - and Sergeant on the right with a fine pass that E.Smith chased up top only to be beaten to the ball by the goalkeeper.
When the Reds broke the deadlock it was no surprise to see it come from a Bourne set piece. Bourne guiding her free kick on target and the Leeds 'keeper parrying it only as far as Jevons who tucked the ball over the line.
Before the half-time whistle Liverpool had plenty of opportunities to extend their lead yet were turned back each time. E.Smith and Moore denied in quick succession by good saves and Bourne's strike from distance just inches wide.
Bourne then almost set up Jevons following a defence splitting pass and provided E.Smith with an excellent through ball. Both times the Leeds 'keeper was quick off her line to cut out the attacks.
At the opposite end Liverpool's number one Heeps stayed alert despite having the quieter morning of the two goalkeepers, making a good catch under pressure late in the half.
In the second half, and as conditions worsened, chances for each side were few and far between. The game becoming a battle in the middle of the pitch with Scholefield standing tall in defensive midfield, providing cover for the centre backs while also looking to pick out passes to her team mates on either wing.
When Liverpool did force their way up the pitch they did so in numbers, Taylor getting in and around the Leeds back line making space for Moore to take advantage of.
As the game neared the end it was Barlow who encouraged her team mates to continue attacking, the centre back shouting instructions and leading by example - seeing a header cleared by the near post following a corner and sending a dipping set piece over the crossbar.
Despite Barlow's best efforts - a header in the final minutes agonisingly just wide of the target - and the impact of substitutes Hamer and Lightfoot Liverpool were unable to add to their goal and ran out one-nil winners.
In recent weeks two graduates from last season's side have made their debuts for the senior team, with Lucy Roberts becoming the club's youngest ever player and Cassia Pike setting up a goal in the FA Cup win over Watford.
Liverpool travel to Sunderland in mid-April for their final game of the 2017/18 league campaign.
Liverpool Ladies U16s: Heeps, Sergeant, Barlow (C), Beard, Hickey, Scholefield, Bourne (Lightfoot), Jevons, E.Smith, Taylor (Hamer), Moore