Matt Beard: Merseyside derby ‘was probably Everton’s cup final’

Liverpool were held to an uninspiring goalless draw by Everton on Sunday, with the Merseyside Derby played at Goodison Park as part of the Women’s Football Weekend initiative. 9,457 fans made their way through the turnstiles at lunchtime, with the attendance figure strikingly low when compared to other recent high-profile derbies.

Matt Beard told reporters in his post-match press conference that Liverpool ‘sold out our allocation and I know we wanted more for our fans.’ Quizzed for his thoughts on the reason for the low attendance figure, he proposed that ‘fans go to games when your team is winning and sometimes they don’t when you’re not winning, so maybe because Everton have had an up-and-down season, maybe that’s why.’

The Liverpool boss acknowledged that ‘it didn’t feel like a derby,’ but was keen to emphasise that the crowd was not the only reason for that. He added that ‘the pitch was dry, the grass was long. It slowed a lot down, [there were] a lot of injuries where the game kept being stopped.’

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‘It’s disappointing to play at a Premier League ground and the pitch was as long and as slow as it was, which definitely had an effect on our game. Look, if we can’t win it, we need to make sure that we take a point and we’ve done that.’

‘I don’t think the players wanted to take the risk in case it held up. No water went on it at half-time, which I can’t get my head around, and it was really dry in the second half and I think you can see both sides [struggling].’

‘I don’t think the injuries helped [with the atmosphere],‘ he continued. ‘I think if you look at the first half, we were fifteen minutes in and Sophie, the fourth official, said to me that we’ve already got seven [minutes] added on. It was a stop-start game right the way across the board. It’s weird but look, as I said before, it’s a clean sheet, it’s a point and we go a point above Man United in that fourth spot now.’

Beard admitted that a 0-0 draw could be perceived as a missed opportunity, but stressed that ‘form goes out of the window in these types of games. [It was] definitely a missed opportunity in the first half – I felt we were really comfortable, dominated the game but we need to be more clinical in the moments that we get in good positions. Everton haven’t won a game this year when they’ve gone behind, so to not take those opportunities was frustrating.’

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‘This was never going to be an easy game,’ he reflected, going on to add that he ‘said to the players at the start of the week that this was probably Everton’s cup final because they’ve got nothing else to play for – so we knew it would be a tough afternoon.’

Liverpool could play a crucial role in deciding the destination of the league title given their opponents over the course of the next few weeks, but Beard brushed off questions on the topic – simply explaining that ‘if we disrupt it, we disrupt it – but we just want to continue to pick up points.’

It’s a task that may be made much harder by a long-term injury sustained during Sunday’s match. While Beard expressed optimism surrounding Ceri Holland’s injury, which he referred to as ‘a knock on the same area’ as a recent dead leg, the Liverpool boss told reporters that ‘Jas [Matthews] is the worry for me.’

‘Jas looks like she’s torn her hamstring – she said it’s worse than it was before so if that’s the case, that’s going to be her season over. It’s weird because if you look in the first half when they watered it, everyone was slipping and in the second half, it just became really dry but it is what it is.’