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leeds ladies 2-2 chester le street: ackroyd’s goal takes point

leeds ladies 2-2 chester le street: ackroyd’s goal takes point

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Leeds Ladies ended a week of tough matches by fighting back to earn a draw with Chester Le Street, and go into a spell of cup games in third place in the league.

That break from league duties will give Leeds a chance to regroup after steadily accumulating injuries and three games in seven days left them without several key players.

Erin White and Bridie Hannon joined Vicky Fytche on the injured list after they picked up knocks in the midweek defeat at Hull, while Shelbey Morris and Beth Smith were also unavailable; Sophie Thompson and Rachael Ackroyd both returned to the side, while Olivia Smart started in midfield to add the bite that shook Hull up when she came on as a substitute in midweek. Youngsters Demi Pringle and Caitlin Gunnell both kept their places after making their full debuts at Hull.

Amid the changes, the way Leeds started the game also changed from midweek as they reverted to habit and, as against Morecambe two weeks ago, allowed their opponents to take an early 2–0 lead.

“I really don’t know why we have to go behind to wake up this season,” says Leeds captain Emma Bentley. “It’s credit that we can fight back but I don’t want to be doing that. Chester Le Street’s second goal was a great strike, but she wasn’t closed down quickly enough and had plenty of time to shoot. We made our own goals in the end, but we also made theirs for them, and that’s not good enough.”

Chester’s first goal came when Leeds didn’t deal with a cross from deep, allowing a forward in one-on-one to finish after eight minutes; the second came five minutes later, Chester’s player allowed time out wide to take a chance and pick a spot in the top corner.

Leeds responded well, reorganising and getting Demi Pringle into the game, whose attacking runs dented Chester’s early confidence before she became too much to deal with and won a penalty for Leeds. Receiving the ball twenty-five yards from goal, Pringle turned and drove into the box, shoulder to shoulder with a defender who, perhaps surprised by the young winger’s strength as well as her skill, eventually kicked out as Pringle took the ball past her. Pringle kept her feet in pursuit of the ball, but the referee gave Leeds the penalty and a chance to pull a goal back through Emma Bentley.

“Demi just causes chaos,” says Emma. “Defenders don’t what to do with her and either tricked or frustrated into fouling her — or she beats them.

“I’ve played in a team with Chester’s keeper Catty Clough before, so she already knows me and how I like to take a penalty; and I scored one past her last season, so this was interesting! I had to hold my nerve and change my approach for this one to try and catch her off guard. She’s such a good shot stopper I can’t say I enjoy taking penalties against her, but I’m glad I got this one right.”

Clough had no chance with Leeds’ equaliser. Pringle was involved again, killing a defensive header with her first touch and clipping the ball to Rachael Ackroyd with her second; Ackroyd took the ball and her marker to the edge of the penalty area, where three steps to the right took her marker out of the game, and an early shot placed the ball exactly into the top corner.

“I score goals like that in training all the time!” says Emma. “We’ve missed Ackers while she’s been away. She’s a natural goalscorer who can produce worldie goals like that from nothing. She’s scored a few like that this season but this one is probably the best so far.

“It was great to have her back, and Sophie Thompson in defence, who returned from suspension and fit straight back in. I thought she had a very good game.”

Ackroyd’s goal is also a candidate for her most important so far, as it got Leeds in to half-time level, another repeat from the Morecambe game. In that game Leeds kicked on to score two more in the second half, but despite dominating the early stages after half-time against Chester, Leeds couldn’t find a goal to put them in the lead, and in the latter stages tiredness after a draining week gave Chester the best chances to win.

“We were trying different things but seemed to be hitting a dead end wherever we turned,” says Emma. “Chester are a better side than they’ve been able to show this season so far; they were able to field a strong line-up in this game, full of experience, and we couldn’t find the key to breaking them down.

“The midweek game caught up with our legs and we had to cling on towards the end. It’s been a tough week, not just physically but mentally, after two disappointing results out of two hard games on the Sunday and Wednesday. They took their toll and in the end we have to look to the positives: we fought back for a point, and the way the season is going for every team in this division, it looks like every point gained will be vital.”

After eight games, Leeds are third, two points behind Hull City and three being leaders Middlesbrough, who have a game in hand. They now have three weeks of cup games, against Birmingham & West Midlands, Morecambe and Republica International, a chance to take stock and return refreshed to the league at home to Chorley on October 25th.

“These games have come at a good time,” says Emma. “We need a couple of weeks to compose ourselves and get back into our stride. I want three wins from these three games, but I also want us to use them to get back to what we do best without having to think about our league position; we can rest players who need a rest, and try new things without any pressure. More than anything, we can build our confidence, and get ready to show what we’re really capable of.”

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