Battling Sheffield Fall Just Short As Belles Top The Tree At Christmas
Doncaster Rovers Belles strengthened their grip on top spot in FA Women’s Super League 2, as they scraped past local rivals Sheffield who couldn't quite complete their comeback.
Sheffield were reeling and Doncaster had their tails up - Sigsworth might have added a third for the hosts as she bent an effort to the far post that was inches wide of the target.
Captain Leandra Little saw her firm header off a Belles corner hacked off the line by Kemp, before Gibbons denied Hanson at close range, then Cashin blocked Sigsworth follow up, as a rampant home side looked to out the game to bed. But credit to Sheffield, they withstood the onslaught and provided some stubborn resistance as half-time was reached.
With snow steadily falling, the second half resumed and an early Sheffield goal got them right back into the contest. Hannah Cain threaded a through ball to Jones who kept her head to round the previously untroubled Bethan Davies and slot in to the empty net for 2-1.
The visitors continued to work hard all over the pitch to thwart Belles' strong and rapid attacks, with some hotly contested battles all over the pitch, the pick being Sigsworth v Gilliatt which saw the Belles forward booked midway through the second half as Gilliatt continued to make the going hard for her.
Jones and Cain continued to combine well, with the former setting up the latter who saw her shot from the top of the box deflected just wide of the far post. From the resulting corner, Belles countered with Sam Tierney through, but halted thanks to a superb tracking run and tackle from Cain.
A corner to Belles produced their third goal, swung in by Murray, Jones bundled the ball into her own net to make it 3-1, but instead of Belles then cruising to victory, Sheffield ramped things up and gave it an almighty go in the last 15 minutes.
Substitute Katie Anderson hit a low driven shot that Davies got down quickly to, and managed to hang on to at the second attempt, but Davies was beaten at close range after a melee in the box, but the referee had blown just before the ball hit the back of the net for a handball infringement from a Belles player on the ground.
Jones, desperate to redeem herself after the unfortunate own goal, stepped up to take the spot kick, but Davies was equal to it, palming it away and Belles hacked the loose ball to safety.
The grandstand finish continued though as Emma Johnson smacked a 30-yard screamer which beat Davies for power and flew into the top of the net for 3-2, right on the 90 minute mark, to set up a pulsating final few minutes which, with a stretchering off, a couple of other injuries and four substitutions, should have been considerably more than the three minutes allowed by the referee.
Photos courtesy of Joe Smart.