A breakaway goal by Clarets striker Sarah Greenhalgh gave Burnley FC Women an all-important victory in their league crusade and ended Leeds United Ladies 100% home record in a gripping game against their nearest challenger.
Leeds United Ladies have demonstrated increasing competitiveness as the season has progressed with strong cup runs and were obviously determined to close the gap on the Clarets and compete for the league title.
In the early stages Leeds attacked with both flair and pace and having the hope of making a quick impression on the score line. The Clarets struggled to stay in an organised formation to defend against the onslaught. A freekick close to the edge of the Clarets area was played in low and a striker managed to get a shot off that fortunately went wide.
Upon breaking out from the home side’s pressure the Clarets looked to exploit spaces in behind. A well struck pass from Leah Embley set Greenhalgh on a run towards goal. Greenhalgh shot from the edge of the area but the home keeper reacted well and tipped the ball out for a corner. Embley took the kick and the two sides competed at heading inside the six-yard box before Leeds finally cleared the threat.
The Clarets started playing with confidence and now easily matched the home side. Chances at both ends resulted. Clarets keeper Lauren Bracewell intercepted a striker as she sprinted into the box and later collected a shot from another striker who also attacked into the box.
An interception by Nicola Shirtcliffe and her nicely placed through ball set Greenhalgh on another run at goal. The Leeds keeper raced to intercept but was unable to reach down quickly enough as Greenhalgh shot low and hard to score.
Tight defending by both teams limited the chances in the remainder of the half. Leeds had a shot that veered slightly high and wide and Lizzy Hamer evaded an off-side trap but could not get the final touch needed to beat the keeper.
The Clarets got off to a good start after the interval, but the Leeds defence sprung the off-side trap twice to nullify both Hamer and Greenhalgh separately as they cut through.
Leeds attacked also, and Bracewell sprinted and dived down to collect a through ball which trapped under her body and almost sprung out behind her. She managed to turn over and smoother it before the advancing strikers could snatch it.
The Clarets were awarded a free kick when Embley was brought down on 25-yards, but the kick was hit over the bar.
Leeds were struggling to break though the Clarets defence as Jo Holt and Sammy Fleck worked hard to maintain another clean sheet and Leeds resorted to long range shots that passed over the bar without trouble. The Clarets were frustrated also as Leeds successfully sprang off side traps to keep the Clarets strikers in check.
As time was running out Leeds had a shot from inside the Clarets area that flew high over the bar and also a claim for a penalty as their striker tusselled shoulder to shoulder with Emily Wilkinson, though the referee showed no interest.
In the last minute of normal time Embley went on a great run and was tripped in the box and the Clarets had a good opportunity to double the score with the penalty kick. Greenhalgh tried to place the ball out of the keepers reach but the keeper guessed the right way. The ball ran free and both teams battled in a scramble. The Clarets managed to strike the ball home, but the linesman spotted an offside player directly in front of the keeper and the goal was disallowed.
Leeds had one final press at Burnley’s goal and caused some hard defending from the Clarets in the penalty area where two corners were conceded before the ball was cleared up field.
The game ended with another victory for Burnley FC Women which extends the clear points gap for Leeds to nine.
The Clarets are back in league action on Wednesday 13th February against Bolton Wanderers Ladies who are now the closest chasing team in the league if they win their games in hand.
Kick-off is 7-45pm at Padiham FC’s Ruby Civil Arena. Entrance is £2 for adults, free for under 16s.