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birmingham & west midlands 4-0 leeds ladies: leeds facing test of character

birmingham & west midlands 4-0 leeds ladies: leeds facing test of character

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Birmingham & West Midlands 4–0 Leeds Ladies: Leeds Facing Test of Character

Leeds Ladies went out of the FA WPL Plate to Birmingham & West Midlands, after three first half goals put the tie beyond Leeds.

More concerning than the cup exit, an already depleted Leeds picked up three more injuries to first team players, with Sophie Thompson, Zoe Doherty and Emma Bentley all limping away from the bench and adding to a lengthy list of absentees.

“It’s a test of character at the moment,” says Leeds captain Emma Bentley. “We’ve been fortunate not to have too many bad spells since the club started, but now when times are tough, we need to stand up and be counted.”

At Birmingham Leeds had Stacey Haytack making her debut in goal, with Beth Smith and Rachel Stuart starting in midfield and attack, and started brightly; Doherty was controlling midfield in the first twenty minutes, creating chances for Demi Pringle and Rachael Ackroyd in attack.

A disputed goal after twenty minutes knocked Leeds off their stride, however, as a strong Birmingham challenge left both Thompson and Haytack on the ground in need of treatment as they ran through to score.

That took Thompson to the sidelines in an attempt to recover, and in her absence Leeds reorganised defensively and allowed Birmingham to get a foothold in the game that had previously been denied them. Ten minutes after going behind, Leeds were further up against it when Birmingham doubled their lead from a corner.

Another lengthy stoppage when Leeds felt they should have been given a free kick for a challenge on Demi Pringle that left her needing treatment for a head injury; Leeds hadn’t reorganised well enough when play resumed and Birmingham broke to take a 3–0 lead. That was the cue for Sophie Thompson to leave the field, unable to continue after the knock picked up as the first goal was scored.

Leeds refound some of the form of the first twenty minutes in the second half, but a bullet header from a corner made it 4–0 to Birmingham just before the hour, and Leeds couldn’t make inroads. To complete the misery, with all three substitutions made, Bentley gradually succumbed to an ankle injury picked up when fouled in the first ten minutes, while Doherty was on the end of a bad tackle in the last five, and both could only limp through to the end of the game.

“Half time was about looking to ourselves,” says Emma. “We weren’t good enough in the first half, and the second was about raising our game, asking ourselves, if someone only watched the second half, what sort of player would they see? That wasn’t only about the football, but about passion and desire.

“We’re not aiming to win any cup competitions this year — it’s all about the league for us. But given our recent run, we’re hoping to use these cup games as a break from the pressure of the league, and to enjoy our football again. With the injuries we picked up, and the scoreline, we didn’t get much of that at Birmingham.

“We’re still looking at the positives. It was great to see Stacey Haytack make her debut and get valuable experience in goal. She’s made great progress, working hard on parts of her game with Lewis in training, and I thought she made some great saves on Sunday.”

Leeds next two games are also cup matches, visits to Morecambe in the FA Cup and Republica Internationale in the County Cup, before league action restarts with a home game against Chorley on Sunday 25th October, and they’ll be looking to find fitness and form to build up momentum for the weeks ahead.

“It is tough at the moment,” says Emma. “We don’t seem to be having much luck with injuries or in games. But we have to look to ourselves to fix that, and I’m confident we’ll come through. We have that Leeds spirit on our side, to always keep fighting, and I know the players we have here will go the extra mile to get us back on track.”

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