By Martin 'Badger' Chadwick
Leeds Ladies hosted Tranmere Rovers at Manse Lane this Sunday just past and as with every home game this season it was a beautiful sunny day. Normally perfect football weather wouldn’t be a cause for concern at all but this is the beginning of November and it was like a July afternoon. I’m seriously starting to worry that if this carries on into December we will here cries of witchcraft when teams visit us.
The air around the ground was electric on this historic occasion as Leeds Ladies prepared for their first ever FA cup game. Club chairman Gary Cooper and general manager Jim Bright kept FA cup traditions alive by wearing suits. The phoenix celebrity fan base grew by one more when BBC Radio Leeds presenter Adam Pope came along to report on his first Leeds Ladies game.
Not only was the air electric and the sky sunny but the atmosphere was also a fun one as before the game the team took on the crossbar challenge as can be seen on the Leeds Ladies FC YouTube channel.
The fans were building the game up to quite possibly the biggest of the phoenix short life, first ever FA cup game, Tranmere knocked Leeds out of the League cup early in the season and the fans wanted revenge.
The game started in the usual high tempo fashion we have come to expect from Leeds with 5 shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes. The closest been a wonderful ball across the face of goal from Sophie Scargill which was latched onto by Erin White forcing a wonderful low save from the Tranmere keeper to go out for a corner.
By the 17th min Leeds Ladies were well and truly dominating the midfield and the only thing keeping them in the game was another fantastic performance by their keeper. The fans were in full agreement that the Tranmere keeper is the best keeper we have seen in this league to date and there as been some amazing displays of goal keeping.
Tranmere were starting to get frustrated at the relentless onslaught and things could have got nasty when Emma Bentley went in late on a Tranmere player on the 22nd min only to then be hacked down by a vicious revenge tackle only 20 seconds later. In fairness both players could have been quite easily booked and probably deserved to be but in a rare display of top class officiating by the referee both players were spoken to, told to calm down and the game continued to flow at its fast unhindered tempo.
Lauren Coleman was called into action on the 29th min when a beautiful long range strike from Tranmere forced here to make a full stretch save that was absolutely top drawer as Tranmere were forced to shoot from midfield as the ever reliable Emily von Starkie and the rock solid Bridie Hannon refused to let Tranmere get anywhere near goal.
The game was quickly becoming one of frustration, Tranmere frustrated at the unbreachable defence they faced on the rare occasion they managed to win the ball in midfield and Leeds Ladies getting increasingly frustrated by an amazing display between the sticks from the Tranmere keeper. So maybe it was a show of amazing skill tinged with a touch of frustration when on the 36th min Hannah Campbell picked up the ball on the half way line, Burst forward with such drive and determination as she rounded two Tranmere players, cuts inside a third and pulled the trigger on a lightning bolt of a shot just outside the area to break the deadlock and put the Phoenix one nil up.
With Leeds 1-0 up at half time the fans were yet again happy at another impressive mature display but were itching for a second goal just to close the game down. It seems Leeds Ladies had the same idea as they came out for the second half firing on all cylinders with Captain Emma Bentley almost scoring on the 47th min but an unlucky deflection put the ball straight at the keeper.
Leeds continued to ply the pressure on Tranmere and shot after shot the keeper continued to deny the girls until the 65th min when Emma Bentley connected with corner kick to take the score line to 2-0 and send the fans mental.
The second goal seemed to knock the wind out of Tranmere and the pace of the game slowed somewhat in the closing quarter but the fans that had been in full voice all day continued to keep the atmosphere high. The usual chants for every player lead to chants of “he’s got go fast sideburns” to the referee who smiled and waved to the fans as way of thanks for getting his own chant. It was so refreshing to have a smiling, friendly and extremely competent referee in a game. As the game drew to a close the fans decided to have a bit of karaoke and started to belt out a few old skool Cher numbers.
The karaoke came to an abrupt halt when on the 91st min Shelby Morris broke through the Tranmere defence to go 1 on 1 with the keeper and unfortunately put it straight into the keeper’s arms.
The final whistle blew at 2-0, the Phoenix claimed her first historic FA cup win and now face Guiseley in the next round which should be an amazing game thanks to the recent fixtures between both sides. But before we can focus on that Tranmere will be back at Manse Lane this Sunday for a league encounter. With a cup win each between us the rivalry is building as we go head to head for 3 points the first time this season. Rise Phoenix Rise!