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Watford 0 Doncaster Rovers Belles 5 (England 3,45, Sweetman-Kirk 52,76, Smith 90)
Watford showed their fighting spirit despite being beaten 5-0 by league leaders Doncaster Rovers Belles at Berkhamsted.
A Bethany England double put the visitors two goals to the good at half time, with the second coming less than a minute before the interval. WSL2's top scorer Courtney Sweetman-Kirk grabbed a brace in the second half before Sue Smith added a fifth late on.
Manager John Salomon made three changes to his side from last time out against Yeovil, with Emily Heaslip and Ellie Mason coming back in. The third change saw Poppy Mason make her first start for the club having only signed on loan from Birmingham City earlier in the week.
The Belles got off to a flying start and took the lead after just three minutes. Smith played the ball to England, who fantastically volleyed the ball over Trippoli Witney in the Watford goal.
It was a competitive opening half hour however there was very little goalmouth action. England heading over from Kasia Lipka's cross being the closest either side came. Smith then forced Witney into her first save of the game, the keeper did well to push it away and then recovered quickly to prevent any rebound.
Watford were doing well to restrict the league leaders and started to fashion a few opportunities of their own. Anneka Nuttall was her usual energetic self up top and tried her luck from distance, however Nicola Hobbs was alert and produced a good save. She had another attempt from range less than 60 seconds later, this time though it went narrowly over the bar.
It was a more than respectable performance from the Golden Girls in the first half and 1-0 would have probably been a fair reflection. On the stroke of half time though, the away side struck and doubled their advantage, England rising highest to head home Rhiannon Roberts' free kick to get both hers and Doncaster's second.
Another recent signing Adekite Fatuga-Dada, came on for her debut after the break, replacing Ellie Mason in one of the wide forward positions. Sweetman-Kirk's finishing was emphatic in the previous meeting between the two sides back in July, however she missed a glorious chance early on in the second half, shooting wide after being picked out at the back post.
Only seconds later she made up for it, finding space in the box and then powerfully finishing past Witney to make it 3-0.
While not a goal or a chance, the 69th minute was a notable key point in the match. Club captain Megan Wynne replaced Tricia Gould, her first appearance since picking up an injury in the game at Vicarage Road back in March. The winger showed some good touches during her time on the pitch and her return to competitive action is a massive boost for the club.
Impressing on the other side was Sweetman-Kirk and she grabbed her second of the match with a quarter of an hour to play, heading home from close range.
Despite the deficit, Watford had acquitted themselves well throughout. Stacie Donnelly nearly got one back, however Hobbs was quick off her line to just about get there first.
With under ten minutes to go, Witney produced her best save of the game to deny Sweetman-Kirk her hat-trick, getting down low to tip her shot around the post. The fifth did arrive in the closing stages though, Sue Smith's free kick from a tough angle superbly finding the top left hand corner.
Watford: Trippoli Witney, Nicole Pepper, Leighanne Robe, Mollie Burgess, Emily Heaslip, Poppy Jones, Phoebe Read, Tricia Gould (sub Megan Wynne 69mins), Stacie Donnelly, Ellie Mason (sub Adekite Fatuga-Dada 45mins), Anneka Nuttall (sub Sasha Adamson 82mins). Subs not used: Deger Zekai, Kim Farrow, Josie Green, Vanna Lee.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Hobbs, Lyndsey Cunningham, Leandra Little, Rhiannon Roberts, Hope Knight (sub Emily Roberts 68mins), Kasia Lipka, Sophie Barker (sub Sophie Stamp 74mins), Jade Lorton-Radburn (sub Emily Simpkins 56mins), Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Beth England, Sue Smith. Subs not used: Molly Johnson, Samantha Tierney, Lauren Cresswell, Nicole Dale.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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