By Martin 'Badger' Chadwick
Leeds Ladies were back in league action this past Sunday with an away game to Middlesbrough. A tough game that promised to be eventful. Middlesbrough have been on a great run of form of late, unbeaten since November and beating the top two teams in the league. We were under no illusions that this was going to be three easy points.
Before we even set off for the Middlesbrough the phoenix faithful informed manager Gaz Lee that they wasn’t bothered about pretty football today and would happily take a gritty 1-0 dirty Leeds win. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case.
Pre game the mood was high, Middlesbrough have a wonderful pitch (a few dips and bobbles) and the weather was a beautiful sunshine filled day that is perfect for football. Leeds got the game under way and instantly showed that “no fear” attitude we have become known for this season. With two clear chances on goal from Emma Bentley and Hannah Campbell in the opening two minutes. The first half consisted of both teams taking sustained periods of possession and pressing forward with clear intent. A wonderful attacking, skilful game of football for both sets of fans and a wonderful advertisement of women’s football for the neutral. Even the referee had a good first half, allowing the game to flow, playing advantage for small incidents rather than giving free kicks.
Both teams were fairly evenly matched with Leeds probably creating the better chances in the first half so it was gut wrenching to see Middlesbrough make the most of a nicely played through ball and take a 1-0 lead on the 44th min. Just 30 seconds before half time.
With such a great first half of football the phoenix faithful couldn’t wait for the second half to begin and were in no doubt Leeds would bounce back and put right the score line. Leeds disposed Middlesbrough straight from kickoff and charged straight a goal. Again with three chances on goal within the first five minutes Leeds made no qualms about their intentions and the fans only had to wait till the 54th minute when Emma Bentley slid onto a low ball into the box and tipped it past the keeper to level the score line at 1-1.
The equaliser fired Leeds up even more than before as the threw everything forward in search of a second goal and has Middlesbrough started to tire, everything changed for the worse.
The wonderful display of football we had been privy to suddenly disappeared as every time Leeds made a tackle Middlesbrough feigned injury and spent at least a minute on the floor before taking forty seconds to limp of the pitch ever so slowly before miraculous recovery as soon as the crossed of the pitch and came running back on to the field of play. This behaviour continued for the remainder of the game and the referee began to lose both control and authority on the field of play.
A point proven as 7 minutes into injury time. Yes Middlesbrough really did spend that much time on the floor. The linesman awarded Leeds a throw in only for the referee to award the throw to Middlesbrough. As Leeds protested Middlesbrough took a quick throw behind the Leeds players backs the startled defence reacted with panic and the ball just clipped the leg of a Leeds defender and bobbled just past Lauren Coleman’s reach to take the score to 2-1 in Middlesbrough favour with less than 30 seconds to play.
I could moan a poor refereeing decision cost us dearly late on, or that Leeds just didn’t take one of the many chances we created but my biggest gripe from the game isn’t the result but the horrible ugly way in which Middlesbrough completely destroyed any flow to the game when the could no longer the sustained pressure from Leeds. When in possession Middlesbrough looked good going forward so it was a shame to see such horrible tactics ruin what could have and should have been a fantastic display for womens football.
Its a testament to the squad we have at Leeds Ladies that the journey home was spent with the fans reassuring the players that this season has already gone above and beyond any and all expectations we have. We started this season with the main objective of smiles on faces and we have achieved that in bucket loads and will continue to do so at our next game on the 29th at home to Chorley when we open the gates to celebrate Yorkshire and local community groups. We hope to see you there.
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