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Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 (Smith 51) Lincoln Ladies 0
Sue Smith scored the only goal of the game against her former club as Doncaster Rovers Belles secured their first win of the season with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Lincoln Ladies.
John Buckley made three changes to the side that were defeated by Liverpool five days before, with Katie Brusell and Lauren Cresswell recalled in place of Naomi Chadwick and the injured Bethany England. Danielle Cox meanwhile, made her first start for the club as she replaced Victoria Williams who was serving a one-game suspension.
The Belles started brightly, with captain Leandra Little looking lively up front. She pressured Casey Stoney into conceding a corner early on, but Lyndsey Cunningham's header from the resulting delivery went well wide. Sue Smith then showed Walton a clean set of heels as she sped past the defender and whipped in a teasing cross. Millie Bright had to stoop low to get her head on the ball, and ultimately she could only send it wide.
After they soaked up early pressure from the hosts, Lincoln then tried to establish a foothold in the game. Lauren Cresswell twice had to be alert and make blocks to prevent her former club from breaking through on goal as Jess Clarke and Lillie Fenlon-Bilson threatened down the flanks. It was Clarke who had the first real chance for the Imps, but her volley from 20 yards lacked proper contact and bobbled wide of Davies' post.
Lincoln thought they had a golden chance to take the lead after 18 minutes, when Jess Clarke found herself free of the defence and through on goal. The referee however, pulled play back and awarded Lincoln a free kick on the halfway line. This decision angered Lincoln staff and supporters alike, who believed play should have been allowed to continue.
Both sides were attempting to break the deadlock through long range efforts as the defences held firm. For the hosts, Millie Bright spotted Karen Bardsley out of position and attempted to drill home, only to see her shot go narrowly wide. Lara Fay then tried to curl home from 30 yards for Lincoln, but it flew over the bar.
The visitors drew a fine save out of Nicola Davies on 26 minutes, as Bonnie Horwood took aim from 25 yards only to see a full stretch Davies tip her effort wide. From the resulting corner, Whelan attempted a flicked header which evaded the grasp of Davies, only for Mills to hack it clear off the line.
Lincoln were starting to gain momentum, and were looking lively when attacking. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk managed to round Davies, but the 'keeper did enough to force her to run the ball out of play. Then minutes later, Clarke went on a fine solo run before flashing her effort past the far post.
The Belles however, were still creating chances of their own and looked threatening on the attack. A lovely move involving Lipka, Brusell and Little resulted in the captain finding Smith in space on the left wing. She cut inside, before curling her effort straight at Bardsley.
There were few chances following this before the end of the half, as the game moved mainly to midfield. The Belles could take heart from their first half display, and had plenty to build on in the second period.
Ex-Belle Carla Cantrell was introduced at half-time, and she had the first real chance of the second half as she drilled in from an angle. Her effort however, was held well by Davies. Remi Allen then tried her luck from 30 yards, but her volley fizzed over the bar.
After 51 minutes, the hosts got the goal their good play merited. Millie Bright won the ball in the area and possession fell to Sue Smith. The winger showed great composure and took two touches before curling past the helpless Bardsley to give the Belles the lead.
It was almost two moments later, as a fine ball out of defence from Cox was ran onto by Little. The captain broke into the area, but her shot went narrowly wide of Bardsley's far post.
On 69 minutes, Lincoln were gifted a way back into the match. Aileen Whelan was tripped in the area, and for the second consecutive game the referee pointed to the spot and awarded a penalty against the Belles. Remi Allen took the spot kick, but saw her effort well saved by Davies, before Roberts hoofed the ball out of the area.
Lincoln did have the ball in the net with five minutes remaining. Casey Stoney saw her 20-yard free kick well saved by Nicola Davies before Sophie Bradley turned in the rebound, albeit from an offside position. There was more late drama as Lincoln won a corner in the final seconds of injury time and sent up Karen Bardsley. The delivery was eventually scrambled clear by the Belles defence, and the full time whistle blew.
It was a deserved victory for the Belles, who defended well and attacked with purpose. The fans cheers as the full time whistle blew could be heard all over the town, as the Belles celebrated the first win that their hard work has deserved.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Davies, Lyndsey Cunningham, Lauren Cresswell (sub Naomi Chadwick 83mins), Leandra Little, Rhiannon Roberts, Kasia Lipka, Ashleigh Mills, Sue Smith, Katie Brusell (sub Julie Melrose 68mins), Millie Bright, Danielle Cox (sub Emma Johnson 87mins). Subs not used: Emma Higgins, Lucy Sowerby, Jemma Purfield.
Lincoln Ladies: Karen Bardsley, Sophie Walton, Lara Fay, Bonnie Horwood (sub Emily Roberts 73mins), Sophie Bradley, Casey Stoney, Lillie Fenlon-Billson (sub Amy Turner 73mins), Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (sub Carla Cantrell 45mins), Aileen Whelan, Remi Allen, Jess Clarke. Subs not used: Julianna Draycott, Rachel Lee.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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