By Brendan Devereux
Leeds entertained Southampton Saints in the FA Premier League Plate this past Sunday in what turned out to be a controversial affair. I will confess to having no match notes for the first 10 minutes of the match as Carey “Kez” Huegett had challenged the supporters club to chase the linesman & it’s hard to concentrate on the match let alone take notes if you want a laugh at us go see the video on the Leeds Ladies youtube channel. Once the shenanigans had stopped it was clear Leeds were the side on top with Kez & Bianca Ross both having one on one efforts saved by the keeper. The first big moment for the officials came after 14 minutes when the referee had awarded Leeds a corner only to have the linesman signal for a handball inside the area. After much deliberation the referee awarded the spot kick & Kez stepped up & slotted the penalty home.
The goal seemed to light a fire under the Saints who through Leah Shave & Becki Bath seemed to be causing Leeds trouble & on the 15th minute it took a last ditch tackle from Lauren Griffiths to deny Saints an equaliser. Southampton continued to press & on the 19th minute Sheriden Palk split open the Leeds defence & Kerri Why latched on to slot the ball home & bring the Saints level. Leeds immediately hit back & Griffiths went on a run beating two defenders only to shoot straight at the grateful goalkeeper. After a great bit of build up play in the 28th minute the ball fell to Bianca Ross who deftly laid the ball off to Kez on the edge of the area & Kez fired home to restore the Phoenixes lead.
Leeds finished the first half the strongest & what seemed to be a personal battle all day between Ross & Saints keeper Haughton saw shot after shot saved with the Leeds faithful scratching their heads during the interval wondering how the score was only 2-1. While the fans were deliberating the scoreline the officials were also asking questions about the weight of the ball & asked for it to be inflated during the break. As the second half got underway news filtered through that Shelbey Morris had to be taken to a hospital with a suspected broken foot thankfully after a scan it turned out to be a ligament sprain & hopefully it wont be too long before she is back in action.
Leeds started off brightly again Haughton frustrated Ross on numerous occasions however the main talking point of the opening stages of the second half was both sets of players claiming the matchball was now too hard. Firstly skipper Emma Bentley was nearly knocked unconscious after taking a ball to the face then on 70 minutes Erin White went down after heading the ball. With both sets of players, management & fans all incensed with the state of the ball Olivia Smart took the opportunity of White receiving treatment to kick the ball out of the stadium into the neighbouring car park. When the ball was retrieved the psi (pounds per square inch) was tested. FIFA guidelines state the following...
The ball is:
• made of leather or other suitable material
• of a circumference of not more than 70 cm (28 ins) and not less than 68 cm (27 ins)
• not more than 450 g (16 oz) and not less than 410 g (14 oz) in weight at the start of the match
• of a pressure equal to 0.6 – 1.1 atmosphere (600 – 1,100 g/cm2) at sea level (8.5 lbs/sq in – 15.6 lbs/sq in)
So the maximum a ball must be is no more than 15.6 psi the ball we were using was in excess of 16 psi but that is fine according to the linesman because we weren’t playing at sea level. The resulting debate led to the Saints physio being sent off & Saints captain Krystal Whyte being shown the yellow card for kicking the ball out of the stadium which as I have already pointed out it was Leeds full back Olivia Smart. This debate lasted for well over 5 minutes & when play finally restarted it was clear all was not right with Emma Bentley who had to be taken off due to dizziness. Head over to The City Talking to hear her tell Dan Chapman about the incident at http://thecitytalking.com/content/2014/10/14/saints-strike-late-to-deny-leeds-ladies-in-fa-plate
With the incident taking up far too much time the Saints through everything they had at Leeds & with only moments left the ball fell to Becki Bath 35 yards out who unleashed a thunderbolt which agonisingly dipped under the crossbar & just out of fingertip reach of keeper Lauryn Colman forcing extra time. Five minutes into the first period of extra time saw Haughton pull off a wonderous one handed save to once again thwart Bianca Ross. Saints went straight down the other end & forced a corner as the ball came in Leeds failed to clear & Saints sub Emma Whitlock poked the ball home to make the score 3-2.
It was now Leeds throwing everything forward in the second half of extra time & Leeds thought they were level & from our view point it looked as though Ross had finally got the better of Haughton however the officials deemed the ball to have not crossed the line & the score remained 3-2. With Leeds going to a back three so Smart could join the attack Leeds were hit with a counter attack & Whitlock grabbed her second of the match to give the Saints an unassailable 4-2 lead.
So as the Saints go marching on in the Plate, Leeds attention now turns to Tingley Athletic Reserves in the county cup. It’s a shame the headlines of the game are dominated by the officials as this was a great contest between two very good teams both on & off the field as for the first time this season the Leeds fans actually had some competition in the stands. The Phoenix will continue to rise & I will depart with some advice for Tingley “Beware the wounded bear.”