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relentless leeds ladies beaten by boro: “losing is never fun”

relentless leeds ladies beaten by boro: “losing is never fun”

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Leeds Ladies reward for one of their best performances of the season was to concede a controversial injury time goal and lose a game that should have belonged to Leeds.

That goal gave Middlesbrough their ninth consecutive win in all competitions, but hid the fact that for the majority of this game they were made to look second best by a determined and relentless Leeds.

Leeds captain Emma Bentley set the tone in the first two minutes, charging down Middlesbrough’s keeper and causing panic in the Boro defence. Bentley’s shot went over the bar, but gave Leeds the impetus to put Boro’s defence under pressure and within two minutes Hannah Campbell almost scored after another defensive error.

“We knew Middlesbrough had a good striker, experienced centre halves and a tricky winger,” says Emma Bentley. “But the plan was to play our own game and take it to them. And I think for the majority of the match we did that.

“I have always had it drilled into me since I was little that you charge the keeper down every time, that you chase every loose ball in the hope of a rebound, no matter what the chances, because you never know what can happen. On reflection I should have done better with that chance, but it showed us what could happen if we put the pressure on.”

After withstanding the first ten minutes Middlesbrough found their feet in the game and began to show the quality that has made them the division’s in-form team, but Leeds’ hard work all over the pitch restricted Boro to long shots. The better chances came at the other end where Leeds’ front three of Bentley, Campbell and Shelbey Morris, supported by Lauren Griffiths’ runs from midfield, didn’t give Middlesbrough’s defence any respite.

But the day’s first blow for Leeds came a minute before half-time, when Middlesbrough broke quickly and took an undeserved lead.

“It was a battle against a good team but we always felt dangerous,” says Emma. “We were always busy and always hungry for the ball to come back to us so we could go at them again. It felt like we had lots of options in attack.

“At half-time we knew we had to keep the pressure on. Their goal could have been a killer for us but it came so close to half-time that we could immediately regroup and come back out ready to work even harder in the second half.”

With renewed intensity an equaliser wasn’t far away for Leeds, who had the experienced Middlesbrough defenders constantly on the back foot as Leeds attacked from everywhere. The Middlesbrough centre halves struggled to cope with the movement and determination of Leeds’ forwards, and Bentley levelled the score when she was first to a ball over the top from Fiona Berry and shot past the keeper.

Soon Bentley had another chance that could have made it 2–1, while a strong penalty claim for handball was turned down by the unimpressive referee.

“For the goal, when Fi got the ball I was actually out wide and Lauren Griffiths was making the run down the middle; we both put the pressure on and I was able to get on to Fi’s pass and slot it past the keeper.

“The keeper didn’t come out as much or as fast the second time I was through, which made her angles good and meant I didn’t have space to put the ball either side. I felt my only option was to lob her, and I’ll never know how she reached that high to stop it.”

With the momentum all on their side another Leeds goal felt like only a matter of time, but perhaps sensing the need to protect a point Middlesbrough’s players began to slow the game down, while the substitutions of Erin White and Emma Bentley took some of the wind out of Leeds’ sails. The experience at the heart of Middlesbrough’s defence began to tell as Leeds struggled to attack with the same conviction as in the first 75 minutes.

Repeated pauses in play for treatment to Middlesbrough players contributed to a storm of circumstances at the end of the game, when in the seventh minute of added time the referee overruled his assistant’s flag and awarded a throw-in in Leeds’ half to Middlesbrough. Leeds couldn’t reset quickly enough and Boro seized on the referee’s decision to score a winner with just seconds of the game remaining, provoking an angry reaction from Leeds’ bench and fans.

While Leeds were hit hard by the injustice of the refereeing, the tougher blow was that the hard work put into generating one of Leeds’ best performances of the season brought only a defeat, and put the league title almost completely out of reach.

“I was so down after this game, because I didn’t want to blame the referee,” says Emma. “Officials make bad decisions all the time and we just have to get on with it.

“We should have put the game to bed before that. Boro were there for the taking, and it frustrates me that now people will just see that scoreline and that Middlesbrough have their ninth win a row and they won’t know that, for me, the better team lost.

“We work so hard to do this. We don’t spend weeknights out in the cold training and Saturday nights in with orange juice just for banter and a laugh on a Sunday. We do that because we want to be the best we can be. As a team we love being together and we love playing football, but I don’t care what anyone says, losing is never fun.”

Leeds are at home to Chorley this Sunday 29th March for only their second home game of 2015, and are celebrating with the club’s first ever community day. Kids, parents, staff and members of any junior sports or community clubs, schools, Scout or Guide groups are invited to take in the game at Manse Lane, Knaresborough free of charge as guests of the club and chairman Gary Cooper; gates will be open from 12.30pm ahead of the 2pm kick off for opportunities to meet the Leeds players and see behind the scenes of the build up to a game between the 5th and 3rd place teams in the league.

“I’m really looking forward to welcoming everybody to Manse Lane on Sunday,” says Emma. “Everyone who comes will see what it’s like to be part of a football club that is one big family, and a team that are friends on and off the pitch. They’ll see the foundations of a club that they can follow and be a part of as we work hard to become amongst the best in the country. They’ll have fun – and, hopefully, they’ll see us win.”

For details of how to get your club, school or group involved with the community day email leedsladiesfc@mail.com; visit LeedsLadiesFC.co.uk, or follow Leeds Ladies FC and the LLFC Supporters Club on Twitter for updates.

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