The Julie Chipchase memorial match ended in defeat for the Belles despite a good performance.
Second half goals from Laura Bartup and Holly Orr ensured Leeds would claim victory in the inaugural Julie Chipchase memorial trophy, but Belles were competitive and displayed resilience, composure and plenty of good football throughout.
In many ways, the match wasn’t about the 90 minutes of football played between the two sides, but about the contribution of one woman - not only to the Belles and Leeds United women - but also to women’s football as a whole.
Chippy – as Chipchase was affectionately known – was honoured before the game with a minute of applause while supporters and former team-mates wore shirts bearing her name and donned kits from her playing days.
The game started slowly with both sides moving the ball around well without creating any chances of note. It took 15 minutes for either side to register a shot on target with Paige Williams’ left-footed shot on the spin lacking the pace needed to trouble Ellie Sharpe in the Belles goal.
Minutes later, Belles forged the best chance of the first half. Building from the back, they moved through the thirds well with Hannah McWilliams beautifully weighted ball finding the well-timed run by Lauren Breen who beat the home side’s offside trap and played a wicked ball across the face of goal but there was no one in red and white hoops to tap in.
With half an hour played, some spectacular efforts were exchanged. Laura Bartap’s attempt at an overhead kick connected with Rebekah Bass’ cross, but was unable to guide the ball on target. This was followed quickly by Sarah Danby who tried her luck from 25 yards but found the arms of Sharpe.
It Danby’s effort was ambitious, McWilliams at the other had an attempt that was frankly audacious! Spotting the home side’s shot-stopper off her line, Belles No.10 attempted to dink her from 40 yards – the shot was over the keeper but also over the crossbar.
There were plenty of blocks, headers and clearances by the Belles, but Butler’s side looked largely untroubled in the opening 45 minutes and showed real composure when playing out from the back.
Leeds United showed real tenacity early in the second period forcing Sharpe into an early save. A ball across the box wasn’t dealt with and was cut back to full-back Bass whose effort on target was saved by Sharpe at full stretch.
Ten minutes later, the home side took the lead. They moved the ball really quickly from front to back releasing Bartap who found space between the two centre back. A good first touch took her away from skipper Jess Andrew who was filling in for the injured Charlotte Dinsdale and a spectacular second touch saw her bend the ball into the top corner.
A half-chance fell Belles’ way when United’s defence failed to effectively clear Kirsty Smith’s cross. The ball was worked to Sophie Scargill on the edge of the box, but her effort ballooned over the cross bar while at the other end striker Abbie Brown totally misjudged a cross to the back post and skewed it out of play without troubling the Trialist Keeper who replaced Ellie Sharpe on the hour mark.
Fresh legs for the Belles as they utilised the rolling subs injected new impetus into the team with Lilly Harrison seeing a shot blocked and Scargill seeing a chance pinched off her toes after she got into a good position.
Leeds United continued to threaten without hitting the target – a wayward effort by Cath Hamill was a warning while a cross from the left should certainly have been tapped in at the back post but the Belles did their jobs well.
Belles were unable to convert a few late chances. Kirsty Smith did everything right as she met a rolling ball at the edge of the Leeds United box curling it on target, but keeper George Wattam made the stop.
And Wattam made an even better save with ten minutes remaining when a perfectly weighted pass by Andrew played Sophie Bell in behind the United defence. The United keeper was quick off her line and made an important stop to deny an equaliser which would have taken the game to penalties.
But it was to be the home side who found the back of the net. With five minutes remaining, substitute Holly Orr finished from six yards after connecting with a cross from the right to kill off any hopes of a Belles comeback.