hull city ladies 4-1 leeds ladies: leeds look for confidence, not consolationsBack
Leeds Ladies put at an end to their recent slow-starting habits against Hull City, but four counter-attacking blows meant their reward was a second defeat in two games, and a second of the season to Hull.
“At the end of the game we were miserable,” says Leeds captain Emma Bentley. “Really, really miserable. I don’t have any more words to describe it.”
Leeds gave full debuts to Caitlin Gunnell at right-back and Demi Pringle in attack, and Pringle’s pace worked in tandem with that of Shelbey Morris to cause Hull problems right from the start. Within two minutes Morris had broken the Hull offside trap and came close to beating the goalkeeper, and for the opening half hour Hull’s defenders struggled to contain Leeds as they arrowed through balls from midfield and hunted in packs to keep the pressure on.
More composure, both when timing runs and in front of goal, could have had Leeds several goals clear in the early stages; Bridie Hannon and Zoe Doherty also went close after set-pieces; Hannon curling a shot just over, a volley from Doherty kept out of the top corner by the goalkeeper.
“We played much higher up the pitch and it meant the start of the game was much more positive,” says Emma. “We’ll need to keep that up from now on. If one of those chances in the first few minutes had gone in I think it would have been a very different game.”
Instead a strong Hull side were able to assert themselves and when Leeds didn’t deal with a throw-in near the penalty area, Hull were first to a loose ball in the penalty area and first to score. That was soon followed by the loss of Bridie Hannon to an eye injury, which meant a reshuffle for Leeds as Rachel Stuart joined the midfield and Emma Bentley went into the defence.
“It was a blow to lose Bridie, especially for me, as I wasn’t happy at all about going into central defence! I had been given a role further forward and had been looking forward to getting in on some attacking, but all that changed when Bridie went off. But that’s what needed to be done for the team, so you just have to get on with it and do it.”
Bentley’s performance at the back, along with that of Erin White in midfield, exemplified every virtue of the Keep Fighting ethos Leeds have adopted for this season; Erin White was eventually taken off with a back injury when the score was 4–1, twenty minutes after she was first treated for it and twenty minutes after she first refused to consider coming off, preferring instead to return to the fray and fly straight from the sidelines into a defensive header.
The team overall responded brilliantly to every blow Hull landed, but the blows landed too well for Leeds to be able to carry the game to a positive result. A flurry of corners after half-time ended with a second goal for Hull, and in a frustrating second half of lengthy stoppages, Hull broke twice more to take a 4–0 lead.
“I never felt like we were under massive amounts of pressure in the second half,” says Emma. “But they still scored three goals. Maybe I’m just used to midfield where people are biting at your ankles as soon as you get the ball, but it made for a frustrating night.”
Leeds could have collapsed, but with Nicolle Jepson added to the attack and Olivia Smart brought on to add bite to the midfield, they kept pressing forward to the end, and Zoe Doherty’s goal was less like a consolation than a reward for Leeds’ spirited attempts to get back into the game.
It was also a moment of quality. Doherty, who kept Leeds on the attack from midfield throughout the second half, caught a Hull player in possession on the halfway line, and the loose ball was fired forward by Smart for Demi Pringle to chase. She caught up with the ball in the corner, and spotted what nobody else had: Doherty’s run to the edge of the box, where with one deft touch she received Pringle’s pass and took the ball past a defender to face up to the goalkeeper, one on one, and beat her easily with the outside of her right foot.
“Zoe is really finding her feet in this team now,” says Emma. “She’s realising that she is one of our more experienced players, and setting an example not only with her performances but her passion and determination.
“Olivia showed that too when she came on — Deej was excellent, she worked hard, galvanised the girls and put some fire into the players around her. She brought back that little bit of experience that we needed.
“In their first starts, Demi and Gunners really impressed me in a tough game. Gunners has been so good in the last couple of games, for someone so young she has really stepped up to the mark and proved her worth.
“Demi is just different class. She is such a talent and I was really happy for her to get a full game.”
Leeds’ next game is this Sunday, at home to Chester-le-Street, and Emma is determined that Leeds will take a positive attitude into the match and get back to winning habits.
“We definitely need to regroup. These two losses have been difficult to take. We all felt down after this game but we have to remember how we felt last week, on the back of a win. We need to dust ourselves off and find the confidence to go again.”
Leeds Ladies are next at home, at Garforth Town, against Chester-le-Street on Sunday 27th September; kick-off is 2pm. Follow them on Twitter for fixtures and updates. Sign up for email updates and match reports from Moscowhite here.