Matt Beard: Brighton clash ‘is going to be a really good challenge’

As Liverpool prepare to face Brighton in the Barclays Women’s Super League on Sunday, Matt Beard addressed the media from the club’s AXA Melwood Training Centre.

The Seagulls will pose a unique challenge this time around, having recently appointed Mikey Harris to take interim charge of the club after Mel Phillips was unexpectedly sacked upon the conclusion of the January transfer window.

Beard praised the work that the club’s analysts have done to understand Brighton’s play style since he took charge of the Seagulls, brushing off any involvement from his brother – having revealed that the pair previously worked together in the academy setup.

‘Structurally, there’ve obviously been a few changes,’ explained Beard. ‘I think out of possession, they’re a lot more organised – they’re not as high risk with their pressing as they were under Mel [Phillips]. We need to be patient on Sunday when we have the ball, because structurally they build really well and defensively they’re organised.’

‘I think in such a short space of time, I think [Mikey Harris] has done a fantastic job so tactically, it’s going to be a really good challenge for us on Sunday. They’ve got a good win [against Wolves in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup] which will give them confidence. How they’re playing and the players’ work ethic is fantastic, so the players seem to be enjoying what Mikey’s doing with them,’ he continued.

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Beard was on the fence as to whether an enforced break from Barclays Women’s Super League action had helped his side to regroup and regain confidence, as they recorded a 0-2 win over London City Lionesses last weekend.

‘Obviously we had the two defeats – Arsenal and Manchester City – and then we’ve had two positive results in the FA Cup [against Bristol City and London City Lionesses] and a draw against Tottenham. It’s been a bit of an up-and-down month, but we’ve still got three positive results out of five games so we take the rough with the smooth.’

While ‘[Miri] Taylor and the long-term ones are still out’ of contention for this weekend’s clash in Crawley, Beard explained that Teagan Micah will be able to return to the matchday squad.

Beard also spoke in-focus on Emma Koivisto, who has become a regular for Liverpool in the Barclays Women’s Super League since signing from Brighton. Asked to give an insight into her development since her arrival on Merseyside, Beard explained that ‘Emma’s progressed fantastically. I think when she first came in, it was a big change from what she was used to at Brighton.’

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‘I know when she was at Brighton, she was played in numerous positions whereas she’s had a settled role here. Emma’s a fantastic player. Her work rate day in, day out is second to none and we’re lucky to have her.’

Attention then turned to the return of Leanne Kiernan, who has impressed since she fought back through several injury knockbacks. The Republic of Ireland international was recalled to the Girls in Green squad to face Italy and Cymru later this month, which Beard said he was ‘delighted’ about.

‘We had a conversation when she’d just come back from the injury and was starting to get minutes again. She’d taken to watching games and developed herself from a tactical standpoint – and if I watch Leanne now in comparison to Leanne before she got injured, tactically she’s got a lot better.’

Liverpool travel to Brighton’s Broadfield Stadium on Sunday, 18 February 2024, with the match set to get underway at midday.