Leeds ladies took to the field at Manse Lane, Knaresborough to face Morecambe last Sunday in what turned out to be a close fought encounter. Leeds Ladies were playing their third game in seven days and the signs of exhaustion were prevalent throughout the squad. Fully seasoned professional athletes struggle to perform at the highest standard when games are so close together so to ask a young amateur outfit to do so is absurd and the WFAPL should really revaluate its fixture programme.
Leeds were both physically and mentally exhausted as they lined up for the game and this was quite evident as the majority of the first half was a scrappy yet even battle in midfield with no real chance on goal coming until the half hour mark when Emily Starkie tried a cheeky attempt on goal from the halfway line (something she is quickly getting a reputation for) that caught the keeper off guard and forced a finger tip save over the crossbar.
Leeds was awarded a 40th min free kick for handball on the halfway line that was taken and immediately awarded another free kick for handball on the edge of the area. Kez no matter how tired she is would never refuse such and opportunity and expertly placed the ball in the back of the net to put the phoenix 1-0 up.
Unfortunately the lead wasn’t to last as on the 7th min of first half injury time as an uncharacteristic mistake in the form of a back pass from Lauren Griffiths was latched onto and levelled the scores at 1-1
The second half saw Leeds ladies line up with Bianca Ross coming on for the injured Shelby Morris. Bianca promptly started to terrorize the Morecambe defence with her trademark spins and broke through the defence on the 59th min only for her first touch to get away from her, it was going to be one of them days.
As the game reached the hour mark the supporters on the side line were treated to a fun albeit angry tirade from Leeds Ladies chairman Gary Cooper as he first tore strips of the linesman before going onto bellow at the referee for his extremely poor and one sided officiating of the game.
With the referee seemingly oblivious to Morecambe’s fouls and first touches just getting away from us we were beginning to think it really wasn’t our day, and the point was proven further as on the 67th min Kez breaks through on goal and shoots, the keeper saves and Kez snatches at the rebound, the keeper gets to it again and Kez still on the floor swings a foot at the errant ball sends it goal wards past the reach of the keeper only for a defender to clear it off the line.
Leeds Ladies were starting to come alive and Hannah Campbell came charging down on the goal on the 69th min only to see her shot tipped round the post for a corner. Chants of “were gonna score from a corner” were obviously listened to has the corner kick was cleared out of the area Kez sends it back on the half volley and Erin White pounced on a loose ball to smash it home and put Leeds Ladies 2-1 up.
Morecambe were having little spats of play and rarely threating the Leeds goal when a 75th min corner saw Laruen Coleman punch the ball clear then having to go off with an injured hand. The ever dependable Lucy Whewall came on to replace her and instantly took command of the area.
The rest of the game was fairly even up until the 86th min when the Leeds Ladies defence seemed to switch off for a second and a wonderful strike from outside the area caught Lucy Whewall off guard and lobbed her to level the scores at 2-2.
Obviously the fans were after three points but with three tough, physically combative and mentally draining games in seven days we would settle for a point and as the clock stood with less then five minutes left we resolved ourselves to a draw and were completely unprepared for what happened next.
Bianca Ross was slammed to the ground in what could only be called an attempted power slam as she jumped for the ball and the Morecambe player made no attempt whatsoever to get to the ball. The referee ignored this, Morecambe played a quick through ball to their striker who was a good seven or eight yards offside, yet again the referee ignored this and Morecambe made it 3-2 with only four mins left to play.
As the final whistle blew Morecambe celebrated like they had just won the cup and the Leeds Ladies were strewn around the field dejected and exhausted. To expect so much from such young girls is unfair but not one single player in that Leeds shirt was crying or upset because of the physical ordeal of the last week but because they felt they let us down by not securing three points!
When was the last time you saw so much pride and passion in a Leeds shirt that fans were consoling the players as they apologised for not winning? When was the last time you saw a Leeds team play three games in a week and still give it all? When was the last time you saw a Leeds time run itself into the ground long after its collective bodies had screamed no more? I’ll tell you the next time you can, Sunday October 12th, 12:30 at Harrogate Railway as the phoenix rises to take on Southampton in the cup. The Ladies will be giving it their all for the pride of the city will you be there to lend your voice to the cause?
Reporter – Martin Chadwick Photography– Alex Knight