leeds ladies “back to business” in morecambe winBack
A hard-working performance in Lancashire on Sunday ensured that Leeds Ladies built on the recent confidence-boosting win over Tingley in the County Cup, and avenged Morecambe’s win at Manse Lane at the start of the month.
The only comfort Leeds captain Emma Bentley could find at the time of that defeat was that the return fixture was still to come, and despite difficult conditions and difficult opponents, Leeds were clinical in attack in the first half and dug deep in the second to come away from Morecambe with a 3–1 win.
“I think in theory we were definitely out for revenge, but in reality, we prepared and entered the game as we enter every game – to win our individual battles and win the game,” says Emma.
“I’ll be honest, I was a little bit nervous leading up to the game. Morecambe were really strong when they came to our place and I was desperate to reverse our recent form of following a good win with a disappointing loss. I was conscious that we were playing on a 3G pitch, which isn’t great, and I was a bit worried about losing Fiona Berry and Jemma White to illness at the last minute. So I was glad when Bianca scored and we took an early lead.”
A one-two with Bentley on the edge of the Morecambe penalty area set Bianca Ross up to give Leeds that lead after ten minutes; as the last of the three who secured hat-tricks against Tingley the week before, Bianca continued that form by scoring first against Morecambe, placing the ball confidently into the top corner from just inside the box.
Leeds haven’t always displayed that sort of efficiency in front of goal this season, but the link-up play among the attacking foursome of Ross, Bentley, Carey Huegett and Hannah Campbell brought two more goals just before half-time.
First Campbell chased down a Huegett through ball, and aimed her low cross from the byline to meet Ross’s run to finish at the front post; minutes later Hannah latched onto another precision through ball from Kez, flashed past a defender and gave the goalkeeper no chance of preventing a 3–0 half-time score, with all four Leeds forwards involved in all three Leeds strikes with either goals or assists.
Early in the second half the pernickety referee’s failure to allow Erin White to return to the pitch after treatment allowed Morecambe debutant Laura Marshall to take advantage of a moment’s peace, and she pulled a goal back with a great long-range strike, but despite the boost that gave to the home side Leeds looked deterimined not to loosen their grip on the game until the three points were won.
“We’d done well to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but in the second half the momentum of the game seemed to get broken time and time again,” says Emma Bentley. "Despite that, I don’t think Morecambe troubled us very much at all, and when they did have their opportunities I was more than confident that our defence could handle it comfortably.
"I thought Bridie Hannon was brilliant again in central defence – she’s another one who isn’t naturally a defender. What I like about Bridie is that she has a calm head. She has grown into the position so well and looks composed every time she gets the ball – she looks to do the right things and play us out of trouble. And because she has experience of both playing and being a captain, Bridie has that natural leadership instinct and can organise the players around her and gee them up when needed. Brides has been a great addition to the club, both on and off the pitch, and we are lucky to have her.
“Olivia Smart – Deej – put in a great shift at left-back too. Deej is a very experienced player who always has a cool head – she never seems to panic and is another one who shows composure on the ball. The last two weeks she has been a great asset for us going forward and she was terrorising the left wing for fun on Sunday.”
In front of the back four midfielders Erin White and Jodie Hartley were instrumental in not allowing Morecambe any time on the ball, and as Leeds sought to stamp on danger all over the pitch before it started, they were joined in the thick of things by Emma Bentley, bringing her into close contact with the Leeds engine room – and the referee, who gave Bentz a first half booking for complaining an opponent had gone down “like Bambi on ice.”
"Having to ‘do a job’ on their player stifled my attacking instincts a bit! I had to concentrate more on what she was doing rather than what I could do. But to be honest, if that’s what I’m told to do in order to benefit the team then I will do it all day long. Chasing around midfield and forcing their play backwards is not my favourite, but I would literally do anything week in week out to make sure this team is successful.
"I even managed to tone it down with the referee in the second half, which I don’t always find easy!
"Erin White was great in midfield on Sunday, she is an absolute rock – I can’t praise her enough. She is so consistent and performs well week in, week out, and she’s always a contender for player of the match. She harries and rattles players, kicks when she needs to but makes good decisions on the ball and plays sensible football.
"I wouldn’t say Ezza is a Hollywood player, she won’t flounce around in midfield with flicks and tricks, but she is combative and hard hitting. She is one of those players who does the simple things right and does them well. She’s our David Batty.
"And I’m so glad that Jodie Hartley has returned to Leeds this season – I think she is a potential superstar. Jodes is hilarious. She walks around half the time like she isn’t quite sure what is going on, and when she’s on the pitch Jodie doesn’t even look like she is trying – she is just that effortlessly good. And for the size of her I still wouldn’t fancy being in a 50/50 with her.
“We also welcomed Sophie Scargill back to Leeds where she belongs on Sunday – Sophie’s a good, technical player, and she’s going to give us some real competition for places.”
Overall, the plaudits belong to the whole team for the professional attitude shown in not allowing any complacency after the Tingley result, and for navigating a tricky away fixture after playing their last six games either at Manse Lane or around Leeds.
“For me, away wins are always that little bit sweeter,” says Emma. "People want to come to us at Manse Lane in their cup final and get one over on us, but when we rock up to someone else’s place, out-sing them and beat them, then happily pack up our things and disappear into the sunset on the SLI bus, that’s always a nice feeling. I’d also like to take a second to thank the South Leeds Independent for the use of their bus, it’s very much appreciated by us all.
"I was happy with the result on Sunday because we were definitely back to business in the league. It can be a bit dangerous having a big cup victory against a side below us in the leagues, and there is always the worry that we wouldn’t pick our game back up again. But on Sunday we proved that we won’t be phased by opponents or occasion; we simply try to do the job at hand, which is to beat the team that is put in front of us.
"We have had so many home games at the start of this season that it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system having so many away fixtures later on, and I think that’s when the points picked up in Morecambe will become valuable.
“It’s always going to be more difficult to pick up points away from home – I think the only home advantage we won’t lose is the noisy support! To be fair though, home or away, big team or small team, it will be the same side that turns out and the same performance that is put on – a ‘Leeds’ one. I’ll make sure of it.”
While the first team were in Lancashire, the Development Squad travelled to local rivals Guiseley, but were edged out by one goal to nil. “I’m glad the Devs have got their season up and running, though,” says Emma. “They’re going from strength to strength. They have a lot of young players in there in what is a really tough league, and they are holding their own. They have great potential.”
At Morecambe Leeds also said farewell to first team coach Mark Maddison, who has had to leave to take up a new job. “Mark has been a massive addition to the coaching squad this year and I am really sad that he won’t be around,” says Emma. “Not just for his coaching advice and input but for what he gives as part of the team and the banter. We all wish him all the best in his new job, and are looking forward to seeing him on weekends off.”
Leeds Ladies are next in action against Tranmere in the FA Women’s Cup Third Qualifying Round, an earlier than usual 1pm kick-off at Manse Lane, Knaresborough. Follow Leeds Ladies FC and the LLFC Supporters Club on Twitter for updates.