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Leeds Carnegie moved one step closer to a return appearance in the F.A.Women's Cup Final with a convincing 3-0 win over Northern Division Aston Villa at Sutton Coldfield.
Relishing the rare chance to play on consecutive Sundays, both teams gave a good account of themselves. Against a team full of England internationals at various levels, Villa defended resolutely during the first half and even dominated the match for a spell in the second. However, a two goal burst in two minutes made the game safe for the visitors with fifteen minutes remaining.
Leeds had opened the scoring on 14 minutes with a swift attack started by Sue Smith who skipped past a challenge on the halfway line and fed a pass to Carla Cantrell. The striker finished from 15 yards after cutting inside the last defender.
Smith herself hit two powerful cross shots inches wide soon after and Leeds were threatening regularly through Jess Clarke on the right and midfielders Jade Moore and Steph Houghton. With central defenders Kelly Saggs and Lisa Sharred to the fore, Villa held out to the break but had been unable to pose a real threat to Carly Telford in the Leeds goal.
This was rectified to some extent after the break in that home keeper Nicola Kuch had far less to do and Villa were able to string several passing movements to encourage the majority of the 200 or so spectators. The best chance came after 65 minutes when Villa went close with a long range snap shot which flew inches wide with Telford beaten.
Leeds went further ahead when Clarke touched home a header from a corner and in their next attack the same player found space to cross low from the right for Cantrell to finish from close range.
Whilst the result was now beyond doubt, Villa kept going forward but wasted a good opportunity from close in on 77 minutes when a free kick was headed wide by Natalie Gibson with two Villa players going for the ball. This moment apart, Leeds had been solid throughout in defence and played out time comfortably.
Amongst the unused Leeds substitutes was the welcome sight of striker Ellen White who was so unlucky to miss the FIFA Under-20 World Cup through injury and who will shortly be able to make her delayed competitive debut for the Yorkshire club. Villa showed they have a lot of good young players and showed commendable team spirit and resilience to keep the outcome in doubt for the majority of the match.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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