Leeds United Women captain Catherine Hamill looks forward to facing Championship side Durham in the FA Cup third round

Everyone put in a great shift on Sunday as we beat Norton and Stockton Ancients 2-1 to progress to the third round of the FA Cup.

By Catherine Hamill
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 6:00 am

It was an absolute mudbath. We’d already had the game cancelled once for a frozen pitch so, as we saw the rain come down this week, we wondered if it might be called off again.

Thankfully, it went ahead but the mud was so heavy on our feet and it made things very slippy for us.

Jockeying, especially, becomes challenging - you go one way then you change direction quickly and next thing you know you’re on the ground!

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The goalscorer, Aaliyah Nolan, played really well, especially considering she has just returned from a long injury.

It was the perfect game for her; she’s a very physical player, even in training she gives it everything.

Against Norton, she got stuck in and was always in the right positions.

Leeds United Women celebrate Aaliyah Nolan's early opener against Norton. Pic: LUFC.

I had a bit of a different job on my hands on Sunday.

It was my responsibility to man mark Norton’s top-scorer Bianca Owens for the whole of the game.

She’s a huge threat for them; from anywhere on the pitch she can just turn and strike so quickly.

We know this from playing them before so we thought we would do well to get her out of the game as best as we could.

Leeds United Women's Catherine Hamill keeps a close eye on Norton's Bianca Owens. Pic: LUFC

“If Owens goes to the toilet, you’re going with her.” Those were my instructions - and it seemed to work!

Even when she was chatting to her team-mates in a break from play or being dealt a yellow card by the ref’, there I was, hovering about right beside her.

It felt a bit awkward at times but it meant she didn’t score anything.

Norton did equalise after our early goal, though, so it was 1-1 at the break.

Leeds United Women's goalscorer Aaliyah Nolan in action for the Whites. Pic: LUFC.

We had all of the ball in the second half - we definitely deserved to win - so, when Kathryn Smith scored in the last minute to send us through to the next round, it was a great feeling.

It’s not the first time we’ve got a late winner which just shows that, as a team, we never give up and we keep going right through to the end.

I was so pleased for the girls who’d worked so hard.

I didn’t let myself celebrate our fourth-minute goal as, at that point, there was so much left to do.

But, when Kathryn scored, I felt sure we’d hold on to the end so it was nice to run up the pitch and get involved in the celebrations!

Next weekend, we’ll play Championship side Durham in the third round. It’s going to be massive.

Leeds United Women celebrate Kathryn Smyth's last-minute winner at Norton. Pic: LUFC.

They’re in fourth place in a league, two tiers above us and on Sunday they were beaten by WSL-side Everton by just one goal which just shows how close they are to top-flight standard.

It’ll be a really tough game and we’re expecting to do a lot of defending.

Durham will be fit, physical, and skilful.

But we have a lot of experience on our side which will stand us in good stead. Sarah Danby even played in an FA Cup final when she was 18 years old so she knows what level we’ll be dealing with.

Facing Durham is not going to be easy but the whole team is focused on giving it everything and we’ll have the home advantage.

It’s shaping up to be another cold weekend but wrap up warm and come on down - it’s a big game for us and we love all the support we get.

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