LEEDS Women’s 1sts were outclassed by a strong Birmingham side who put eight past them on a bitter cold evening at Weetwood.
The Gryphons went into the match knowing that they were facing one of the best university women’s hockey teams in the country – notorious for attracting national junior and England under-21 players. They were further disadvantaged by the absence of in-form captain Katie Hopkisson, who picked up an ankle injury three weeks ago.
Birmingham started brightly and were on the front foot from the off, running at the Leeds defence from all angles and using the full width of the pitch. They dominated the opening ten minutes, but squandered two early chances and hit wide of the target. The Leeds goalkeeper was forced to make a fine stop with her feet after the opposition’s centre-forward cleverly dribbled her way into the D. Birmingham looked dangerous, and the next passages of play saw a series of attacks threaten the Gryphon goal.
With ten minutes played, Leeds managed to break into the opposition’s half, where they eventually won a short corner. Off the back of a well-worked move Izzie Limbo’s hit was just inches past the post.
Birmingham continued their attacking prowess from their hit-out, dribbling the ball once again past the girls in green to the edge of the D before it was picked up by the centre-forward and flicked in from the outside of her stick and past the goalkeeper. Straight after the re-start, the visitors came again, pressuring the Gryphons by passing the ball confidently around the D before threatening from the right. Birmingham were then able to exploit some lacklustre marking, thus scoring another goal.
Leeds responded with an attack down the right-hand side and, for the first time, exerted real pressure on the away team’s defence. The ball was worked out to the right, but the pass that followed was too heavily weighted for any forward to run onto. Brimingham were unfazed by this period of attacking intent from Leeds, and appeared to press on with their game plan.
Moments later however, Ellie Lyne won a free-hit, which saw the start of a fine move from the Gryphons and one which forced the goalkeeper to tip a close-range shot over the bar. Birmingham, however, soon broke on the counter-attack and caught Leeds players out of position. The ball was passed to the centre-forward who found herself one-on-one with the keeper, whom she dribbled around to make it 3-0.
Bimingham seemed relentless, and after the re-start the visitors threatened again, and a goal-mouth scramble this time forced the Gryphon goalkeeper to tip the ball onto the crossbar. Defender April Lessen showed some fine skill when she received the ball on the far right and advanced past her attacker under pressure, but before long the ball was won back by Birmingham who executed a well-practised short corner on the stroke of half-time to make it 4-0.
The second half brought more misery for the Gryphons. Birmingham picked up from where they had left off and immediately were on the attack. To their credit, Leeds kept their opposition at bay and made them work before they could threaten to score more. The girls in green were admirably disciplined in the face of an aggressive Birmingham attack – something which is as impressive as it is commendable, considering the harsh competition. However, the vast amount of possession that the visitors were enjoying meant that a fifth goal was almost inevitable and a goalmouth scramble lead to a close-range tap in. Number six soon came after, when a short corner was won and the ball was neatly rolled out to the receiver, who set up a hit which was fired deep into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
A seventh goal was scored minutes later from the top of the D during the next passage of play, and although Leeds eventually took back possession and broke into the opposition’s half, they couldn’t pose any real threat. At this point however, there was virtually nothing the home side could do to change the outcome of this gruelling match. The hit-out that ensued was flicked by a Birmingham defender (a sign which arguably showed that the visitors were now playing for fun) before a short corner was forced and executed to perfection as the final whistle went.
This one-sided scoreline ultimately proved why Birmingham are currently top of the BUCS Premier Northern Division. The Gryphons were certainly outclassed, and will surely look to learn from this unfortunate encounter.
Featured image: Fiona Tomas