Brighton boss Merricks: “We have to be harder to beat, that’s it”

The interim manager needs to see a lot more from her players after the Seagulls squandered a two-goal lead to WSL rivals Liverpool, writes Rachel Roberts.

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Brighton interim manager Amy Merricks has told her players they must be more resilient after being forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with Liverpool.

The Seagulls held a 3-1 lead going into half-time at Broadfield Stadium, with goals from Elisabeth Terland, Danielle Carter, and Katie Robinson cancelling out Missy Bo Kearns’ opener for the visitors.

But two late goals from substitutes Shanice van de Sanden and then Rachel Furness in the closing stages of the game saw the Reds end their six-game losing run, as well as double their goal tally for the season against the WSL’s worst defence.

And Merricks spoke candidly when assessing Brighton’s performance, which leaves them in ninth place in the table – just three points ahead of today’s rivals.

She said: “I thought we did really well in probably two-thirds of the game. The first two-thirds, in particular, we had quite good control, created opportunities. However, I think towards the end we’re more disappointed now because we need to be harder to beat in some key moments.”

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In their previous WSL outing – Merricks’ first as interim manager since Hope Powell’s decision to step down – Brighton held off a West Ham comeback to win 5-4 but this evening they let all three points slip away in the dying minutes of the game. And the boss admits their game management has to improve ahead of next Sunday’s League Cup clash with London City before facing a resurgent Man City on December 4.

Merricks reiterated: “We have to be harder to beat, I think that’s it. Changes in the game, the momentum changing and how we cope with that as a team, I think that will help us to continue winning games. At least it’s another point on the board, however, we should have come away with three today.”

It was Liverpool who drew first blood in the 17th minute and finally broke their goal drought, after scouser Kearns tapped home following a great run to break into the Brighton box from Melissa Lawley. But it was a short-lived lead as Terland powered in a header at the other end only minutes later that Liverpool keeper Eartha Cumings could only watch sail past.

With the score now levelled, the Seagulls began to dominate the half. Terland delivered a clever pass to Carter, who, with an effort on the turn, sent the ball wide. The 29-year-old did get her goal shortly after though – through a penalty conceded in the 24th minute in the calamitous aftermath of a corner. After scoring from the spot last time out against West Ham, Carter once again converted, firing the ball low and hard to Cumings’ left.

As the hosts took the lead for the first time in the match, the atmosphere changed. Carter celebrated her goal standing ice cool on the penalty spot surrounded by her team-mates and it was evident there was renewed confidence in Merricks’ side.

Fresh from making her debut for the Lionesses in Tuesday’s draw with Norway during the international break, Brighton’s Robinson shone with creativity and energy throughout the half, and in the 33rd minute she made the score 3-1 with a stunning goal curled into the top of the net from just inside the 18-yard box.

But Reds boss Matt Beard’s second-half substitutions proved a turning point in the game. Van de Sande found the back of the net from close range to make it 3-2 on 76 minutes and set up a nervy ending to the game for Brighton, before Furness sealed a point with her diving header in extra time.

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In a game which was played with a high tempo and energy, the creative performances of Carter and Robinson stood out. Capping off a memorable week with a spectacular goal, Merricks singled out 20-year-old Robinson for praise and was particularly impressed with her focus. She said: “She came in, did her role, did her responsibilities, as did other players. I think she got her head down, got on with it this week.”

But the overriding feeling for Robinson and her team-mates at the full-time whistle was frustration after squandering their two-goal cushion. Merricks admitted: “She’s a professional and she is, like everyone else, quite disappointed that we didn’t come away with more today.”

For 10th-placed Liverpool, however, it may prove a vital point as their next WSL clash is with Reading — another team flirting with relegation. Next Sunday’s cup games will be a welcome respite from league duty for the Reds, who face Championship side Blackburn Rovers.

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts

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