Leicester traveled to London for the second league match under new manager Willie Kirk. The Foxes came into the match at the bottom of the table after a 4-0 loss to Arsenal. One or three points from this match were a must in hopes of avoiding the drop. It would also serve as a morale booster, as luck hasn’t always been on the side of the Foxes.
There are a few changes in the lineup with Lambourne replacing Levell in goal, and Bott replacing Pike in the midfield. Josie Green is still out injured leaving McManus in her stead. Kirk has opted for a formation change going for a 4-1-4-1 with Purfield, Plumptre, Howard, and Simon making up the back line. McManus came in as the defensive midfielder, Carrie Jones and Whelan are the left half the midfield with Tierney pushing up to right midfield joined by Bott, and Flint as the sole striker.
The Foxes started out the match on the front foot with the attack coming down the right. Bott got off an early shot that was well worked between her, Whelan, and Jones. West Ham’s keeper was able to keep it out though. The home side were lucky to escape a penalty call as Purfield’s long ball found Flint and the West Ham defender pulled her down in the box. VAR has its drawbacks, but it also has benefits.
There were some bobbles and mistakes from recent additions to the squad with McManus nearly gifting the Hammers a chance in front of goal with a poor clearance. Lambourne bobbled a soft long shot, almost comically ending in an own goal, pulling it up just before crossing the line.
Halfway through the first half saw Tierney intercept a pass as West Ham tried to play out of the back, sliding it to Whelan who drove into the box and delivered it to Flint right in front of goal. Another fizzled attempt at goal as Flint’s shot went wide. West Ham returned the favor shortly after, with a
cross shot forcing a save from Lambourne.
The second half saw West Ham with more possession and more composed than the first half. The Foxes were able to get off more shots in the second half, albeit low probability of going in. One of the best opportunities in the second half came off a short corner from Purfield to Bott who crossed it in, finding Whelan whose diving header just went wide of the goal. The other best opportunity of the second half came from another corner, this time Jones heading it from the near post with the crossbar keeping it out.
Around the 63rd minute Kirk made his first substitution bringing on O’Brien for Flint. The attack didn’t improve noticeably with her addition, so at 75 minutes in Goodwin came on for Simon. With the addition of an attacker for a defender, this appears an indication that Kirk wanted three points from the match and only three points. There’s something about beggars and choosers that could likely be inserted here.
In true Leicester fashion, the match ended with a bang. With only a few minutes left in the match and a tied score line, Atkinson for West Ham broke free at the edge of the box. Plumptre didn’t shut her down, and Howard got caught off balance with Atkinson driving past and getting off the shot for a goal. For some unknown reason Lambourne came off her line out to the edge of the box, leaving a gaping hole for Atkinson to slot in the shot.
The added time saw the Foxes scrambling for a goal, as they now realized they would have another match pointless. They were able to get off five shots, unsurprisingly none were on target. Leicester have now ended another match without any points, and a third match where they have lost a point in the closing minutes.
Positives from this match are they had their highest shot count for a match, with the next closest at 14 shots. Unfortunately, only three shots were on target. The xG for this match was the highest for this season at 1.4, with the next highest at 0.8 (Aston Villa at home). Not sure much solace can be had in that stat, as no goals were scored for the Foxes and this only highlights the inability to finish.
At some point game management must become the priority until they can find someone who can put the ball into the back of the net. It is baffling after the Reading match that the Foxes did not close this out, instead still going for a goal in the final stages of the match prior to West Ham scoring. This team has only one goal from open play in league matches. Sure, dribbling down into the corner and holding onto the ball isn’t entertaining but getting the first point of the season should have been the priority.
It won’t get any easier from here, next up are defending champs Chelsea at home.
Only rating this match will be for Kirk.
Willie Kirk – Bedford’s biggest success was getting a definitive and solid back line. Prior to her Morgan had a mix of formations and personnel, with no success. The back three of Plumptre, Tierney, and Howard are solid and have kept the Foxes in many of their matches. This allowed the two wingbacks to push forward, sparking most of the offensive actions for the Foxes. It’s not so much the formation change that is frustrating, but personnel positions. Pushing Tierney up could work, she’s tidy with the ball and it allows her to stop attacks higher up the pitch. Jones and Simon have worked well together on the right in prior matches, so not sure why Jones was shoved over to the left. Most surprising is lack of game management still present. 5