Lockdown means more frustration for Leeds United Women’s boss Dan O’Hearne

Leeds United Women are out of action again until at least December, and manager Dan O’Hearne is frustrated by the disruption.
Leeds United Women's manager 
Dan O'Hearne. Picture: Steve Riding.Leeds United Women's manager 
Dan O'Hearne. Picture: Steve Riding.
Leeds United Women's manager Dan O'Hearne. Picture: Steve Riding.

Following last weekend’s announcement by the government of a second national lockdown, the FA confirmed on Tuesday that all non-elite football will be suspended for the duration.

In a statement explaining the move, the FA said: “Restarting football at these levels has taken substantial determination and commitment from stakeholders across the game and we would like to thank everyone for their vital contributions. However, health and wellbeing remain the priority.

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“Our aim is to ensure that the 2020-21 season is completed.”

Laura Bartup scored against Barnsley last week in the FA Cup. Picture: Steve Riding.Laura Bartup scored against Barnsley last week in the FA Cup. Picture: Steve Riding.
Laura Bartup scored against Barnsley last week in the FA Cup. Picture: Steve Riding.

The suspension applies to all leagues in tier three of the women’s football pyramid and below. Division One North is in the fourth tier and consequently, having played just four league games since the restart in September, the Whites will now neither play nor train until at least December 2

Head coach Dan O’Hearne said: “It’s a weird season, isn’t it? We started late, and then we’ve just got going and we’re having to stop again.

“You can’t get into a rhythm or plan anything, because you don’t know how many players you’re going to have available. When we come out of lockdown, will they give us time to train? Nobody knows, do they?

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“I suppose you’ve just got to get on with it and do your best – everyone’s in the same boat, so it’s not like anyone’s got an advantage over anybody.”

Uncertainty has been a feature of the season for all teams so far, with virus contacts wreaking havoc with the fixture list and squad availability. The Whites took a weakened side to their FA Cup tie at Barnsley on Sunday, with six players out through injury and Covid-related absence.

Leeds buckled under a strong start from the hosts, conceding two sloppy goals inside 10 minutes. Ex-Barnsley striker Laura Bartup gave the Whites hope, finding Holly Findlay’s cross and the bottom corner just before half-time.

Despite a bright spell in the second half, the visitors struggled to find an equaliser before the Reds saw the game off with two late goals, eliminating Leeds from the FA Cup for the second consecutive season.

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O’Hearne said: “It was a poor performance – the players know that.

“It was disappointing after the Stockport game, because that was probably the best we’ve played all season. Then at Barnsley, we knew we would be going into lockdown, so we said ‘let’s finish on a high’, then we finished on a low.

“The league has always been the priority, but I must admit I would have liked a run in the FA Cup as a couple of rounds in, you start getting Championship and Super League teams. But it wasn’t to be, we never turned up and we got what we deserved – nothing.”

There’s work to do in lockdown; O’Hearne and his managing team will wade through nine hours of match footage to identify areas for improvement, while the players hope to stay fresh with the help of strength and conditioning coach Chris Plater, who will send out running plans for them to complete together via the club’s dedicated Strava group.

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Leeds United Women’s next scheduled fixture is against Stockport County, and will take place on December 13 at the Global Stadium, Tadcaster.

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