By Martin “Badger” Chadwick
Leeds Ladies had the rare treat of a Wednesday night midweek game this week in the form of the county cup semi final against Bradford Ladies. Even though nobody expected Leeds to win this tie it still drew considerable excitement in and around the club.
Regular readers of my match reports will know how incredibly proud I am of this amazing club and everything the staff and players have achieved in 7 very short months. It is a fantastic testament to the hard work, commitment and dedication of all involved that Leeds Ladies have come up against opposition in Leagues above them and never shirked or been afraid of the challenge but instead rising to it with gusto and determination.
The 2-1 defeat to Coventry in the FA cup wasn’t seen as a monumental loss but rather a great way to push our limits and not only see how far we have progressed but learn what we need to improve on to compete at a higher level. On Wednesday night it was the same against Bradford.
Bradford are a League above us and flying pretty high in 3rd place so we knew it would be a difficult game but one we would face with pride, ability and of the course the knowledge that everyone loves an underdog.
Bradford got the game underway and attacked Leeds with pace and precision passing straight from the get go. Leeds initially struggled to cope with this early onslaught and Bradford took an early lead on the 7th minute when a wonderful through ball saw the Bradford striker round Lauren Coleman and unselfishly lay the ball across for her team mate to stroke the ball into an open net and give Bradford a 1-0 nil advantage.
At one nil down so early on it would be easy to think that this would be a cricket score result but one of the things I admire most about this Leeds Ladies team is that going a goal behind only makes them more determined to win. It is genuinely like watching Bruce Banner transform into the Incredible Hulk! The Phoenix becomes faster, stronger, angrier. Every run is surging, every ball fought for and its taken as a great personal offence if the opposition even dare string a few passes together.
The rest of the first half saw Leeds Ladies battling for every ball as Bradford were relentless in their attacks. A wonderful solid defence performance form the entire Leeds back line saw that no real clear chances on goal were created for the rest of the half. Whilst up the other end of the pitch Leeds continued to push forward as when they could but often found attacks brought to a swift end by a well timed Bradford foot or an unlucky bounce.
The biggest threat to Bradford in the first half was Leeds set pieces, one corner found the head of Lauren Griffiths to agonisingly just clear the crossbar whilst a second corner was fired right onto the penalty spot and the resulting scramble ended up with a Bradford defender having to pull off a goal mouth clearance.
As the whistle blew for halftime the score remained at 1-0 and while Bradford in all fairness had had the lions share of possession Leeds were in no way been run ragged and had in fact had more attempts on target .
Just as the second half was about to get underway a rolling mist descended on the pitch and the far side became completely invisible to those in the stands which couldn’t have been easy for the players has visibility on the pitch must have been very near to zero. Thankfully the mist only lasted ten minutes before dispersing rather rapidly after been found out for jumping the turnstile and not paying the admission fee.
Unfortunately for Leeds they recovered their eyesight just in time to see Bradford take a short corner, pop the ball into the box and the resulting header taking the score line to 2-0 in Bradford’s favour after 52 minutes of play.
As Leeds tried to regain composure Bradford pounced quickly with a wonderfully timed through ball in 55th minute that opened up the Leeds back line and the resulting finish took the score line to 3-0 but even with Bradford three goals to the good the phoenix still refused to admit defeat.
Bridie Hannon, Fiona Berry, Catherine Hamill and Emily von Starkie all continued to make big crunching tackles that continuously brought an abrupt end to the constant barrage of Bradford attacks. The whole of the defence line up were absolutely amazing and would have made a very big headache when it came to choosing player of the match if it hadn’t of been for debutant Nicola Devine. The newest addition to the Leeds Ladies squad must have covered every blade of grass during the game, made extremely important tackles, fantastic surging runs, great support play and a wonderful 30 yard strike that almost beat the keeper and smashed into the top corner.
As the clock counted down the remainder of the second half the turnstile jumping mist thought it would try its luck at sneaking in a second time and once again brought visibility to almost zero on the pitch which had the phoenix faithful rather tongue in cheek discussing just how bad the fog has to be before the game is called of and has to be replayed at a later date
Leeds started to throw everything forward in chase of the goal the truly deserved and after two very promising attacks were caught out by a Bradford long ball on the 85th minute which lead to a rather harsh score line of 4-0
With a full time score of 4-0 Bradford deservedly progressed to the final of the county cup but the result isn’t an accurate reflection on the game itself, while Bradford were without a doubt the better team Leeds certainly deserved a goal or two and made every single supporter immensely proud of every single one of them.
I am immensely honoured to be part of this great team of staff and players. If you have seen them play this season you will know exactly what I’m talking about and if you haven’t then I strongly urge you to make your way to Manse Lane on the 29th March when we take on Chorley in the League or get in touch with the supporters club via the forum or social media and join us as we travel away with the team. It has been way too long since football fans in Leeds had a team they could be proud of. Don’t deny yourself that right any longer.
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