leeds ladies, through in county cup, now ready “to roll our sleeves up”Back
Leeds Ladies are safely through to the quarter finals of the County Cup after a 15–0 win over Keighley Oaks on Sunday – and thoughts are turning now to a tough series of fixtures ahead.
After the triple hat-trick performance in a 9–0 win over Tingley reserves in the previous round, there were three more hat-tricks in another comprehensive victory, with Shelbey Morris and then Bianca Ross pushing the new Leeds club’s goalscoring records further with four goals each.
Emma Bentley, who along with Ross and Carey Huegett scored a hat trick against Tingley, got three again while Hannah Campbell, Emily Starkie, Kez Huegett and Jemma White got one each.
It was a welcome return to action for Leeds, whose scheduled league clash with Tranmere last weekend was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
“Weeks off are so frustrating,” says captain Emma Bentley. "You look forward to game day all week, but when you can see the weather isn’t great you just have to hope it isn’t going to be affected. Then the text comes through to say the game is off and the whole weekend is ruined.
"For our players the game takes up the whole weekend, not just the Sunday – Saturday has to be thought about too. We can’t go out, we can’t do anything too strenuous. It’s like a rest day. But then when you find out the game is off, it’s too late to arrange to do anything.
"Then Sunday is just completely miserable. Twitter is loaded with people who do have a game, matches are on TV and I don’t have a game to play. And to top it all off last week, it was sunny! I also had to think about how to make up for the fitness I’d missed – a few of the girls went to play in a good 4–0 win for the development squad at Mansfield, but I had to settle for going for a run.
“It was a decent run and the scenery was nice, but I think I had a face like thunder all the way. So it was a relief to actually have a game this week. I spent Friday and Saturday on weather watch hoping we wouldn’t have the same scenario. I really didn’t want to have to go for another lonely run!”
The moors above Keighley were thankfully unaffected by the fog and rain at the end of last week, and were the setting for an unusual Leeds line-up, with forward Kez Huegett starting in goal to allow a rest for regular keeper Lauryn Colman. With an hour gone and the game beyond doubt, Colman retook her place between the posts while Kez went upfront to score Leeds’ eleventh with a cheekily backheeled volley after her initial effort was saved by the hardworking Keighley keeper.
“That was the pick of the goals – a typical goal from Kez, a trademark piece of skill,” says Emma. “I was happy too to see Emily Starkie finally break her deadlock, although she has warned us that it isn’t going to stop her driving forward and shooting from full-back! Another three hat-tricks, and the four each from Shelbey and Bianca, will be making our chairman regret offering his hat-trick bonus – I’ll take the chocolates, but personally I’m just happy to keep scoring.”
While a 15–0 result throws the spotlight on the goalscorers, and marks the difference in levels between the sides, the need for level heads on the day was reflected in the choice of midfielder Lauren Griffiths as player of the match. She didn’t make the scoresheet, but alongside Erin White and Jemma White, her defensive work in the middle was valuable in providing a platform for Leeds to perform.
“It is very difficult to play your normal game against a team from a so-called ‘lower’ level,” says Emma. "The danger is always there that we will drop our standards to theirs. Against teams in your own league you can read the game and think about what opposing players are going to do, but that’s harder to predict in cup games like these, so we have to be careful.
"Despite the scoreline, Keighley had some decent players in midfield who, if they had been given time and space, could have caused us some problems. Fortunately for us, that’s where some of our most disciplined players are.
“They don’t care who they’re playing: the opposition won’t get a moments time, space or respect from our girls. If the ball is there to be won, then they win it. It’s credit to them that they were hard working and professional throughout.”
That determination to keep standards high was clear at half-time when Jemma White joined the game from the bench, and was given strict instructions by Griffiths about closing down Keighley’s midfield – even though Leeds were already seven goals ahead.
“Lauren is like that all the time,” says Emma. “She gets annoyed in training if someone is messing about or if a phase of play comes to nothing because somebody hasn’t been concentrating. I like playing with Lauren for that, even when I’m on the end of it – it’s how it should be.”
That sort of attitude is going to be important in the coming weeks. The win over Keighley means Leeds will face Ossett Albion Ladies in the County Cup quarter finals on January 18th, but before then Leeds have a series of difficult games in the league against current second place side Mossley Hill, home and away; and against Middlesbrough at home, with the possibility of a rearranged home game with Tranmere. There’s also the FA Cup first round clash with Guiseley at Knaresborough on December 7th.
“For me, these next few weeks are going to be the ones that shape our season,” says Emma. "The honeymoon period is well and truly over now. It’s time to roll our sleeves up and make sure that we get every single point and win possible from this next series of games. We simply cannot afford to slip up.
“The end of the season might seem like a long way off now, but I don’t want to get there and be looking back thinking, ‘what if?’. The end of this season is in our hands right now, and we need to make sure that when we look back, it looks rosy.”
Leeds Ladies next fixture is away to Mossley Hill on Sunday 23rd; they’re back in action at Manse Lane, Knaresborough on Sunday December 7th in the big FA Cup game against Guiseley Vixens. Visit LeedsLadiesFC.org.uk, or follow Leeds Ladies FC and the LLFC Supporters Club on Twitter for updates.