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leeds ladies 5-2 chorley ladies: league brings best out of leeds

leeds ladies 5-2 chorley ladies: league brings best out of leeds

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After three weeks of cup matches, Leeds Ladies got back to work in the Women’s Premier League with a 5–2 win over Chorley at Garforth.

The cup spell didn’t bring great results on the pitch, with injuries meaning depleted sides lost 4–0 in the FA Plate at Birmingham & West Midlands, and 5–0 at Morecambe in the FA Cup, although Leeds did get safely through in the County Cup, beating Republica Internationale 7–0.

The ninety minutes on the Sundays masked hard work going on behind the scenes to prepare the players for the next stage of the the league campaign, work that paid off in Leeds’ best performance of the season.

“I think we needed that break from the league,” says Leeds captain Emma Bentley. “We hadn’t been reaching the standards that we expect from ourselves, and we needed some time to regroup and get our heads back in the game.

“Our manager told us he would be treating these few weeks as a ‘mini pre-season’, and I think the players were a bit apprehensive about that; nobody likes one preseason, never mind two!

“But we worked hard and worked on new things to improve our game, and when we began to see ourselves improving it was a great feeling. We actually had a lot of fun, we had a laugh as a team and enjoyed the training environment.”

Chorley bore the brunt of the newly focused Leeds, who dominated the game throughout. It wasn’t smooth sailing for Leeds, who lost Vicky Fytche to injury after only ten minutes, but they went ahead after twenty-five minutes when Bridie Hannon received the ball from a cleared corner, looked up, and from thirty yards shot from behind the corner of the penalty area into the far top corner of the net.

Fifteen minutes later it was 2–0 to Leeds, as a cross from Olivia Smart was controlled by Emma Bentley, who moved across a defender and switched feet, and sent a deft lob over the goalkeeper from the edge of the area.

A mistake at the back let Chorley pull a goal back before half-time, but Zoe Doherty repeated her trick of making the first task of the second half a goal. Receiving the ball on the edge of the penalty area, Doherty cracked a left-footed shot off the cross bar to make it 3–1; she scored again five minutes later, as Rachael Ackroyd steered Caitlin Gunnell’s cross to her again on the edge of the box; with her first touch Doherty flicked the ball into the air, and with her second volleyed it into the corner, right-footed this time.

“It felt like we were playing well,” says Emma. “On the pitch I could feel like it was probably a good game to watch, and we got good feedback from the sky at half time — our coach Liam watches from the stands — that helped us find space we could exploit in the second half. Zoe in particular did that well for both of her goals!

“I was pleased to get on the scoresheet again, and it was a good cross from Deej to set me up. I thought Deej played very well; more often than not she’s showing a mature attitude and being the experienced head we need in the team. She’s training well and playing well, calm on the ball and looking to play football whenever she can.”

Calmness was hard to come by in the second half, as inconsistent refereeing began to affect the atmosphere of the game and he lost control of an increasingly physical game. It boiled over in the seventieth minute when Leeds’ Nicolle Jepson clashed with a Chorley player after a tackle on the touchline. A tussle that might have fizzled out on the other side of the pitch suffered for taking place next to the Chorley bench, with substitutes and staff diving in between the players. Hands had been raised, however, and both players were sent off, along with Leeds manager Gaz Lee for his protests at the standard of refereeing.

“I was next to it and wish now I’d grabbed Kolo a bit quicker!” says Emma. “Once hands were raised the referee didn’t have any other choice to make really.”

Leeds continued to be the better team at ten-a-side, and took a 5–1 lead when another cross by Olivia Smart was volleyed home by Rachael Ackroyd. With five minutes to go Chorley scored a second, and despite their relatively comfortable lead Leeds kept working hard until the final whistle to make sure there were no more mistakes.

“We really wanted this win,” says Emma. “Their players were moaning when we took the ball into the corners for their last two minutes, but we had put so much effort into getting that win, we would do anything to see it out. Plus, all that effort had tired us out!

“The win was important. We’d had a difficult couple of weeks before the break, and I think this result gave us belief in ourselves again. We’ve remembered how good we can be.

“We go to Middlesbrough next week and then visit Chorley the week after that, before Tranmere come to Garforth on November 15th. Those will be tough games, so it’s an important time to keep having that belief in ourselves and keep putting in those ‘Leeds’ performances.”

Leeds will be putting in those performances without assistant manager Jak Oldroyd. The game against Chorley was Jak’s last, as he leaves to develop his career with new coaching opportunities. Along with Gaz Lee, Jak had in charge of Leeds United Ladies Reserves during their last season, and stepped up during the turbulent summer that followed to take charge of the fledgling Leeds Ladies club at a time when there was effectively no team to take charge of.

“It was sad to see Jak say his farewells at the weekend, because he, along with Gary Cooper, is one of a few people who kept this club on its feet,” says Emma. “Gary had the hopes and dreams about this club rising again, but they would have stayed as dreams without a manager.

“Jak believed in the dream and put his faith in it, and I know how tirelessly Jak has worked for the good of this club. Through training, team selection, recruitment and tactics, he has always done it with a spring in his step and a smile on his face.

“Apart from everything else Jak has done for Leeds Ladies, there is one thing that personally means a lot to me. He was the one who asked me to be captain of it all. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had as captain, or felt the pride I feel every time I pull on the armband, if he hadn’t asked me to do it. I’ll never forget that and I will always be grateful, and I wish Jak all the luck in the world.”

Leeds Ladies next home is against Tranmere on Sunday 15th November at 2pm, at Garforth Town AFC; entry is £3 and u16s get in free. Follow Leeds Ladies FC on Twitter for fixtures and updates.

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