Leeds Ladies arrived at Villa Park (not that one) still full of confidence from last week’s win against Stockport to take on Tranmere in the 1st round of the FA Premier League Cup. Within minutes of kick-off we saw signs that this game was really about the referee. After a through ball saw a Tranmere striker being chased by Emily Starkie ended with an accidental coming together the ref showed Starkie a yellow card. Neither side were able to establish a presence on the game due to the constant disruptions thanks to this whistle happy ref.
The big moment of the first twenty minutes came when Leeds were forced down to ten for ten minutes as Hannah Campbell was forced off the field to remove a covered earring that needed pliers to be removed. Even down to ten, Leeds had the best of the chances with Sophie Varley narrowly heading over & Bianca Ross having a shot agonisingly cleared off the line.
Leeds continued to press & after 42 minutes karma decided to play a part as a Shelbey Morris corner was headed home by none other than Hannah Campbell minus the offending earing. Deep into injury time, Tranmere were awarded a free kick with after a goal mouth scramble they managed to find the net with the last kick of the first half.
The second half got underway with Carey “Kez” Huegett coming on for Sophie Varley & straight from the off it looked like Kez & Bianca had been playing together for years. Both strikers were constantly causing the Tranmere defence no end of problems & looked like Leeds would take the lead when Binx got on the end of a Kez cross & put it just over the bar.
On the hour mark the officiating came under the spotlight once again as Tranmere hit Leeds on the break & a clearly offside goal was allowed to stand as Tranmere took the lead.
Ten minutes later and as Leeds cleared a corner it fell to a Tranmere player who put a cheeky lob it into the net as Colman was recovering from the corner clearance. Undeterred Leeds showed the fighting spirit that manager Jak Oldroyd has instilled in this team and Binaca Ross got just rewards for her hard work, and opened up her Leeds Ladies account by scoring a beautiful goal from the edge of the box.
Leeds threw everything at Tranmere bringing off Starkie for Mahoney which allowed Emma Bentley to join the attack. As Leeds pushed for an equaliser they were once again hit on the break & as an injury time cross came in it was deemed to have been handled by Mahoney & the resulting penalty was expertly saved by keeper Lauryn Colman.
The referee blew for full time on a tie that finished 3-2 to Tranmere. The ref will ultimately claim the headlines for but Leeds can walk away with their heads held high knowing that they WERE the better side in every aspect even down to the fact Tranmere players at their home ground asking why they don’t have fans like us.
Attention now turns back to the league & the highly fierce derby on Thursday at home to Guisley Vixens. The match kicks off at 19:45 at Harrogate Railway so get down & watch the phoenix rise.
Reporter – Brendan Devereux