DESPITE beating Loughborough in last year’s BUCS competition, it was always going to be a challenge for Leeds competing against a team two leagues above. With an evening push-back and favourable playing conditions, Loughborough set off to a strong start.
Loughborough immediately seemed the dominant team from the outset, scoring the first goal of the match within one minute of play, breaking through Leeds’ defence. However, Leeds captain Katie Hopkisson brought the game back to Loughborough’s half, dribbling the ball up three-quarters of the pitch, posing a threat to Loughborough’s lead. Before Loughborough could get too comfortable, forward Flo Esplin scored Leeds’ first goal ten minutes later, shooting the ball right into the bottom of the net straight past Loughborough’s defence.
Having found confidence from their goal, possession of the ball was predominantly with Leeds which saw them attempt a few shots, and miss the target narrowly on each occasion. Loughborough fought back confidently, deflecting each shot made by Leeds and eventually regaining a stranglehold on possession.
After a few penalty shots on each side and a lot of end-to-end play, the game could have been anyone’s. Following many attempted goals from both teams, the player to make the difference was Loughborough’s number 26 sneaked another goal for the visitors, pulling the score up to 2-1 just before the end of the first half.
Despite Loughborough’s 2-1 lead, Leeds didn’t waver in their game whatsoever but continued to battle on, showing strong defence and attack throughout. However, at the beginning of the second half Loughborough seem determined to maintain their leading position, lingering around Leeds’ goal and attempting two goals that missed only marginally, both veering too far to the left-hand side. Loughborough maintained possession for long spells, putting the Gryphons’ two-year winning streak under threat. However, after the East Midlanders gave away two penalties to Leeds, Hopkisson danced past the Loughborough defence from beyond halfway and took the ball into Loughborough territory. Leeds’ ability to constantly wrestle back possession even after opposition dominance led Katie to praise the “gelling of the team”. This is promising given it is so early on in the season.
Regardless of unfaltering defence on Leeds’ behalf, Loughborough managed to find another goal in the 30th minute. From the end of the first half it seemed that Leeds might not be able to claw their way back into the game following Loughborough’s resilient play, but they certainly fought heroically to maintain this score for the majority of the second half. Hopkisson called it “the best they had played all season” and praised the new hockey pitch which “sped up play”.
Leeds, in spite of their defeat, can take plenty of positives from the game and carry them through to the rest of their season. They battled gallantly against a strong Loughborough side and managed to sustain a steady score throughout the game.
Featured image: The Gryphon