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Sunderland 2 (Joice 47, McFadden 90) Doncaster Rovers Belles 3 (Roberts 29, England 63, Sweetman-Kirk 80)
The Belles became the first FA WSL 2 side to beat higher division opposition in the Continental Tyres Cup as they defeated Sunderland at The Hetton Centre.
Whilst Glen Harris's side exited the competition due to superior goal differences in other groups, they can gain a lot from a victory over the Lady Black Cats, who sit second in FA WSL 1.
It was the visitors who started on the front foot, with Bethany England having the first chance after only three minutes. After a good passing move, the forward found space on the edge of the area but could only fire straight at the goalkeeper.
After an end-to-end opening, Sunderland began to show their class and almost took the lead through Abbie Holmes. The full-back found herself with a sight of goal after a slick move, but saw her effort stopped by Nicola Hobbs.
Half an hour in, and the Belles took the lead. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk was set free down the right and her cross was slid in at the far post by Emily Roberts, who made enough of a connection to find the back of the net.
Moments later it could have been two. Sweetman-Kirk again played tormentor-in-chief as she got to the byline, and her chipped cross was met by England. She, however, was closely guarded by two defenders and could only steer her header over the bar from close range.
Emily Simpkins thought she had extended the Belles' lead ten minutes before the break. Sweetman-Kirk seized on a back pass from Steph Bannon and teed up the midfielder who tapped home. The celebrations were cut short, though, as the linesman raised his flag, much to the confusion of the Belles' bench.
Sunderland had one major chance to equalise before the break, as Stephanie Roche found herself through on goal. The Irish international's effort was kept out well by the legs of Hobbs, and ensured that the Belles stayed ahead at half time.
This proved to only be a temporary reprieve, however, as two minutes into the second half Sunderland were level. FA WSL 1 top scorer Beth Mead got to the goal line and her cut back was emphatically driven home by Abbey Joice from six yards out.
Carlton Fairweather's side were quick out the blocks after the break and looked to take control of the game. The Belles remained resilient at the back and owed a lot to goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs who was in fine form to deny Sunderland on numerous occasions.
Sweetman-Kirk was keen to get in on the scoring act, and she thought she had given the Belles the lead again on 57 minutes. A deep cross found her in space at the back post, but her header was saved at point blank range by Hilde Olsen who, similar to her opposite number, was having a good day between the sticks.
The game was still end-to-end with chances flowing freely. Just after the hour, Sunderland substitute Keira Ramshaw broke through on goal and, after her effort evaded Hobbs' fingertips, Leandra Little came across and cleared off the line.
Little's defensive interception was made more important moments later, with the Belles regained the lead. After a quick break England found herself through on goal and, despite vocal appeals for offside from the locals, she fired past Olsen from the edge of the area.
With both sides still having a slim chance of progression, Sunderland were keen to win and qualify for the quarter finals. They pushed forward after falling behind, with Mead seeing an effort saved by Hobbs before defender Gemma Wilson flashed a header narrowly wide of the far post from a corner minutes later.
They would come to rue these missed chances when the Belles added a third with ten minutes remaining. After she forced her way into the area, her first effort was parried by Olsen before she tucked the rebound away to bag her 23rd goal of the season.
The Lady Black Cats were still keen to reduce the margin of defeat, with Mead again at the centre of the action. She went through one-on-one, but Hobbs triumphed again as she pushed the effort wide. There was to be a consolation goal though, as Sarah McFadden headed home a cross deep into injury time, but it was too little too late as the Belles hung on to claim a massive victory.
Sunderland: Hilde Olsen, Abby Holmes, Steph Bannon, Gemma Wilson, Vicky Greenwell, Abbey Joice, Rachel Furness (sub Sarah McFadden 82mins), Emma Kelly (sub Keira Ramshaw 43mins), Brooke Chaplen, Stephanie Roche (sub Kelly McDougall 69mins), Beth Mead. Subs not used: Rachael Laws, Tori Williams, Megan Beer.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Hobbs, Sophie Barker, Leandra Little, Rhiannon Roberts, Hope Knight, Bethany England, Jade Lorton-Radburn, Emily Simpkins, Kasia Lipka (sub Samantha Tierney 90mins), Emily Roberts (sub Sophie Stamp 65mins), Courtney Sweetman-Kirk. Subs not used: Nicole Dale, Sophie Stamp, Lauren Cresswell, Sue Smith.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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