The FA Cup made me want to compete at a higher level, says Leeds United Women skipper Catherine Hamill

It is always a little disheartening to lose by a big margin in football, but I felt proud of the way we performed against Durham in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
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We lost 6-0, but for the first 35 minutes, until they got their first goal, we were able to keep out a Championship side who train and play football a lot more frequently than we do.

We approached Sunday’s game differently. We are used to pressing quite high, but we didn't want to expose ourselves too much, because of the quality of the team - we thought they’d be able to pass it around us more easily than the other teams in our league, which is two tiers below the standard Durham play at.

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Leeds United Women exit the FA Cup at the hands of Championship side Durham
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Our plan was to hold off, then engage with them when they came into our half. It worked quite well.

We didn’t let our heads drop after Durham scored their first goal, but we ended up going into half-time 3-0 down.

I didn’t enjoy the second half quite as much. When it got to 6-0 seventy minutes in, I thought I’d quite like the whole thing to be over! But we did well not to concede any more in the last part of the match.

At the end, a couple of our opponents mentioned that they were feeling tired. I’m glad to know that we gave them a good game.

Leeds United skipper Catherine Hamill. Pic: LUFCLeeds United skipper Catherine Hamill. Pic: LUFC
Leeds United skipper Catherine Hamill. Pic: LUFC
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Sometimes we’d get the tackle in, but not be able to do anything with the ball. When you’ve got the space to do it, you should go for it, but the fatigue kicks in after defending for so long - the passes aren’t going to be perfect, because you’re so tired from fighting to get the ball back.

It reminded me of coming up to play open age football - it takes a couple of months to get into it and understand how to play it. Durham looked sharper, sometimes. For one of their goals, for instance, they were onto the rebound so quickly. If you played at that level, week in week out, you’d get used to how sharp and quick the play is.

It definitely gave me an appetite for playing in the leagues above. There were some moments in the game which felt great - beating players who are regularly competing higher up in the pyramid than you. It puts it into perspective, and makes you feel like you could cope at a more advanced level.

I’m trying to be more positive about my performances these days. My Mum and Dad hate it, as straight after the game I’ll usually pick holes in my performance. The bad bits are always the first thing I mention when I come off the pitch - ‘I should have made that tackle, I could have got that ball.’ But I was pleased with large parts of the team’s performance on Sunday, and my own, which feels strange to say, given the goal margin!

Olivia Smart prepares to take a throw at Leeds United's home ground, the Global Stadium, in Tadcaster. Pic: LUFC.Olivia Smart prepares to take a throw at Leeds United's home ground, the Global Stadium, in Tadcaster. Pic: LUFC.
Olivia Smart prepares to take a throw at Leeds United's home ground, the Global Stadium, in Tadcaster. Pic: LUFC.
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Every week the occasion is different. You get to know the teams in your league, you get a bit of rivalry with them. You’re up for every game, but sometimes there’s a little something extra. There was no pressure on us in this FA Cup game. Durham would have gone out there knowing they needed to win. The occasion has such an effect.

This Sunday coming, the shoe’s on the other foot. We’re taking on sixth-tier Bradford Park Avenue in the County Cup. The pressure’s on us to get the result.

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