Leeds United Women's Laura Bartup spoils Wolves' defensive record as Whites exit the league cup
Leeds United travelled to Wolverhampton on Sunday afternoon to play the first round of the National League Cup.
Arriving at the CKW stadium with the confidence of three straight wins behind them, the Whites were tested by a Wolves team who were yet to concede a goal this season.
It was a baptism of fire for Lauren Joyce, who was seldom called upon on her debut in Leeds’ 5-0 defeat of Barnsley last week, as the 22-year old goalkeeper made three saves within the first 90 seconds of play.
Wolves pressed with an urgency unseen in Leeds’ usual Division One North opponents as the hosts’ higher-league credentials showed from the off.
Amid the early flurry of pressure, Leeds centre-back Bridie Hannon missed a header and Wolves’ Leo Joyce collected the ball, skirting past Olivia Smart before firing home on 13 minutes.
Refusing to be ruffled, Dan O’Hearne’s side soon matched Wolves’ composure on the ball as the game settled into a lively showcase for what the Whites and fans could enjoy next season, if Leeds are successful in achieving promotion into the Northern Premier Division.
The visitors’ chances increased towards the end of the half as Leeds came into the game. In a training ground routine, Sarah Danby delivered a free-kick on the edge of the box which, flicked on by Smart, fell to Bartup whose shot was saved by the Wolves keeper Becky Thomas.
Just before the close of the half, Wolves scored their second of the game. In a more successful rendition of Leeds’ free-kick routine at the other end of the field, Wolves’ Kelly Darby volleyed the ball high into the six-yard box with Anna Price climbing highest to head home.
Joyce was busy again after the interval, but it was Leeds who created the finest chance of the post-break period as Kathryn Smith sliced over a tempting cross from Sarah Danby.
The miss was quickly followed by a goal straight from the Leeds United textbook as the Whites blotted the hosts’ immaculate defensive record by becoming the first team to score against them this season.
Olivia Smart’s trademark high, looping corner was met by the ruthless head of Laura Bartup, who quickly seized the ball from the goal to kickstart the side’s quest for an equaliser.
The search was largely ineffective, though, as Leeds struggled to find the vivacious creativity they ended the first half with, despite the efforts of Danby pulling strings on the left wing.
On the hour a promising Whites free-kick earned by Danby’s endeavours was quickly converted into a chance for Wolves as they broke with speed, and the crowd cheered at the fruits of the attack only for Amy Dicken’s shot to bounce back off the far post.
A quieter second half from both sides looked to be shaken up in the final five minutes as Bartup danced round defenders to find a clear sight of goal, only for her shot to be blocked.
Wolves closed out the game with a mature performance of professionalism, commanding possession and sealing the result in the final seconds as Anna Price cleaned up a goalmouth scramble from a corner.
Dan O’Hearne side acquitted themselves admirably on the road to a higher-level in-form side, refusing to be cowed by the opposition and causing Wolves to concede their first goal of the season. As worthy competitors at tier three standard, the Whites made a great case for their promotion.
The result takes Leeds United Women out of the National League Cup competition and into the hat for the National League Plate, which they’ll compete for against the 37 other losers of this weekend’s Determining Round.
The draw for the Preliminary Round of the Plate will take place on Monday September 20.
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