leeds ladies “still have targets” after win number fiveBack
Leeds Ladies are enjoying a winning end to the season, taking their run to five consecutive wins with a dominant defeat of Tranmere Rovers.
The first challenge for Leeds was to ensure the game got played at all. After postponements in November and February, Leeds are ending the season with back to back leagues games against Tranmere; the teams already have a win each against each other in cup games. But after heavy rain overnight standing water meant the game couldn’t be played at Manse Lane, Knaresborough as planned, and a hectic hour of work was required to find a playable 3G pitch at Batley Sports Centre.
“It had rained all night and I knew the game was at risk, but that didn’t make the news any easier to take,” says Leeds captain Emma Bentley. “But the team behind the scenes got to work straight away to find another venue and they did a great job to get our game on. It’s been the story of our season in many ways – people tell us we can’t play, then we pull together and do it anyway.
“Although I don’t really want this season to end, we’ve had far too many postponed fixtures this season and it can’t go on forever, so we really wanted to get this game played. That said, I was gutted not to play one last time at Manse Lane – I thanked everyone there in my programme notes, but they’ve been truly amazing and I can’t thank them enough.”
There was no sign that the disruption was affecting Leeds as the game kicked off, as they began a dominant performance by creating eight good chances in the first ten minutes. The best fell to Catherine Hamill who drove in from the right wing and hit the post with a low shot, while Emily Starkie, Bridie Hannon and Shelbey Morris all went close.
A break for treatment for a Tranmere player took some of the momentum out of Leeds quick start, and despite constant pressure the opening goal didn’t come until almost the half hour mark. Leeds were using their wide players Starkie and Ellie Hall to press high up the pitch, and after winning the ball in midfield a swift passing move between Hall and Lauren Griffiths put Shelbey Morris free in the penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat, and she finished without a problem.
The rest of the game’s goals all came in a five minute spell before half-time. Bentley made it 2–0 with a free kick to the top corner from thirty yards on 42 mins, and then two minutes later Griffiths volleyed past the goalkeeper from close range after an onpoint cross from Hamill.
It looked like goals would keep coming for Leeds, but Tranmere got the final goal of the game just before half-time when Leeds failed to clear a freekick into the penalty area and the loose ball was put past Chloe Precious and into the Leeds net.
The second half started with more of the same attacking verve from Leeds, and overall they created around thirty good chances in the game; but with little sign of a Tranmere comeback and Leeds already secure this season in third place in the league, the tempo dropped in the last twenty minutes and nothing was added to the scoreline.
“At one point it did feel like we were going to run away with the game,” says Emma. “But after going ahead we struggled to keep the momentum. We played well but we are capable of better.
“I was impressed by our play in the build up to Shelbey’s goal, and Cath put in a great cross for Lauren’s goal. Obviously I enjoyed my free-kick – I think Starkie wanted to take that one but when it went in she was like, ‘Okay, I’ll give you that!’
“We were disappointed to concede – it was a scramble in the penalty area, we hesitated and their player got their first. Luckily it didn’t cost us too much.
“I think we are showing signs of being at the end of a long season, and it’s tough when you’re tired and need a rest, but I still want us to enjoy these games. Close season and pre-season always drag, and I know I’ll miss playing competitive matches after next week.
“After winning at Liverpool last week we know we’ll finish in third place whatever happens, but we still have targets and jobs to do. We want to finish with six wins in a row to get close to our run earlier in the season. We want to finish as close as we can to Guiseley and Liverpool at the top – one more win will close the gap to first to six points, which will be a great achievement in our first season. And we want to maintain our standards and keep being Leeds, right to the final whistle of the season.”
Work to keep building Leeds off the pitch has also been continuing this week, through link ups with junior sides Boroughbridge, Ripon Panthers and Skipton Town, and planning for the club’s first end of season awards night at Beeston Sports and Social Club on Friday May 8th at 7pm.
“I had a great day out at Boroughbridge Juniors last week, and our chairman Gary Cooper went with Emily Starkie to watch Skipton Town Juniors on Saturday. I’m delighted with these partnerships, and it’s great to see more young players becoming part of the Leeds Ladies FC family.
“I’m really looking forward to the awards night too – it’s free entry and everyone’s welcome to come along, so I’m hoping for a big turnout. So many people connected to this club have reasons to be proud of themselves this season, and they deserve a night to celebrate and reflect on just how far we’ve come.
“Then it’s off to Tranmere on Sunday for that sixth win, and to sign off this season in true Leeds style.”