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Karen Walker was more satisfied with the performance of Leeds United in their narrow 2-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers on Sunday. The former England captain was part of the team which had been demolished 8-0 by Everton the previous week and she told Women's Soccer Scene that they are getting back on the right road. "You try and look and the positives," she says, "last week was just one of those games, a bit of a freak. Everything they hit went in and everybody's heads went down but we knew we'd improve this week and we did. We had a lot of the ball and thought we deserved a lot more out of the game but all credit to Bristol Rovers, they worked and they battled and they got the win. We're disappointed but we did do a lot better and we just need a little more quality.
"We had to sort out our defending and the individual mistakes - there was no team spirit or anything last week but there was a lot of it today, so that is a good thing. Now, we just need to keep going."
Rovers scored their two goals in a three minute spell, both of which were scrambled efforts from corners. "It was a good thing that that was what we kept them down to," adds Karen, "they didn't have any other particular efforts on goal but two scrappy goals so in a way that's good, but it's awful to lose to two scrappy goals - it's so disappointing but we'd have taken a couple ourselves near the end!"
On the positive side, Karen scored her first goal for her new club in the game, a trademark header from a Sue Smith corner. She admits to being a little relieved at getting off the mark: "I felt a bit of pressure, you come with a reputation and people have a certain idea about you because you've been there and done it. I'm a striker and I want to score goals, I didn't get much of a chance last week! But at the end of the day, I'd have sooner not scored and us won."
Despite their disappointing start, Karen says that Leeds must be looking at a top half finish. "We've got to with the players we've got," she says, "but we had a few players missing today and in the end it told. We needed that bit of quality to open them (Bristol Rovers) up because they all dropped back, but hopefully we've got a couple of players in the pipeline to come in. We've got to aim for there, we've too many good players not to and I would be disappointed if we didn't end up there,"
Karen, like everyone else, is also looking forward to an open title race. "All the years I've played, this is about as close as you are going to get. For whatever reason, money wise or whatever, players have gone to clubs where nobody would normally go - a lot have gone to Birmingham and Everton and it does make for a more interesting league. The players are more spread out so the games are a lot closer and that's got to be better for the game, rather than one team dominating."
And does this mean a rise in standard? "Oh, massively! There are a lot of good kids coming through, a lot more than when I started playing. They are playing from five years old now, they get to fifteen and they are confident and that's making for a lot of quality players coming through."
But what about the more experienced players? After all, both Karen and Trudy Williams got on the scoresheet during their game on Sunday. "I've still got a lot to offer," warns Karen, "I still feel as fit now as I did ten years ago. I've known Trudy a long time, we were in the England under-21s together, but obviously I was more glad to see my goal in than hers! But there's still a place for us old ones."
There's plenty more to come yet from Karen Walker, write her off at your peril.
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