New Everton Ladies boss Willie Kirk insists his side will “get better and better” after the Toffees marked his first game in charge with a win over city rivals Liverpool.
Two exquisite strikes from first Inessa Kaagman then Simone Magill secured victory for the Blue Girls, who put on a display of quality, resolve and heart as they secured their first league win of the campaign to lift them off the foot of the WSL table.
Kirk, named the new Everton manager on Saturday, was pleased with the performance of his side but insists it “sets the minimum standard” as he looks to build momentum at his new club.
The former Bristol and Hibs boss believes his players “don’t know their potential” just yet but with a win under their belts, he is optimistic that improvements will be made quickly.
“Considering it was my first game, a derby and we got three points, I think we will struggle to top that in terms of the buzz after a game,” he said. “But there will hopefully be many more high points like that over the next few years.
“It has been a long time coming. We spoke to the girls in the week and said that the league table starts now and everyone is on zero points – so I suppose that makes us joint top! – but seriously, we wanted the players to focus on today and tomorrow, not what’s happened before.
“They have done that since we have walked in and taken the first training session. The girls have responded really positively.
“That result sets the minimum standard for this week and hopefully next week we set another. We will be pushing ourselves to see what our standard is because I am not sure the girls know it quite yet.
“I think they played to 50-60 per cent of their potential of the squad so if we can work on a few things then hopefully we can get better and better. We know there will be some bumps on the way, but in general terms we will improve I’m sure of it.”
Everton looked bright from the off and went in front after just five minutes as Kaagman put in an early contender for goal of the season with a lob from 30 yards that left Anke Preuss with little chance as it sailed into the back of the net.
Jess Clarke’s leveller from close range pegged the Toffees back but they soon set about scoring again. Gabby George – on her 100th appearance for the Blue Girls – nodded a teasing free-kick from Kaagman wide, before Preuss pulled of a brilliant save to deny the Dutch midfielder from close range.
But there was little the Reds keeper could do on 41 minutes. Magill was wide on the right of the box but saw enough of the goal to chance her arm – and found the back of the net with a venomous strike.
After the break, Kaagman was denied by Preuss before Liverpool began to press forward looking for a late leveller.
Kirstie Levell denied Laura Coombs, Leandra Little nodded over then saw a similar effort come back off a post.
But the points were Everton’s, leaving Kirk to applaud the calibre of his side’s goals.
“They were two absolutely fantastic strikes,” he said. “Si has had a couple of other opportunities to take a shot earlier in the first half and I was questioning why she hadn’t. But then she pulled that one out to put us back in the league and what a strike it was.
“Inessa’s is equally as good. I was shown a video of her scoring a similar goal in pre-season. Two fantastic goals and a really solid performance.”