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Doncaster Rovers Belles 3 (Smith 23, England 58,82) Oxford Utd 0
A brace from Bethany England and a Sue Smith penalty handed the Belles a vital three points in their quest for the FA WSL 2 title.
Following a cagey opening, Smith opened the scoring with an emphatic penalty after a handball in the area. The lead was doubled when England flicked home Smith's chipped cross, before the winger added a second with a cool finish eight minutes from time.
Were it not for the heroics of Demi Lambourne the margin of victory could have been greater, but despite numerous saves from the England Under-19 international, the Belles ran out victorious.
Having clinched promotion last weekend, Glen Harris' side came into the contest looking to take a step towards the title. They were met however, with an Oxford side in a rich vein of form, and it was the visitors who applied the early pressure albeit without creating any real chances.
After absorbing the early pressure, the hosts looked to take control. The first chance of the evening fell to top scorer Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, but she could only fire over after Emily Simpkins' cross.
The Belles were now dictating the game, and deservedly took the lead on 23 minutes. Playmaker Smith played the ball into the area where it struck an Oxford hand, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Smith took the penalty herself and fired it into the roof of the net to put the hosts in front.
With 26 goals to her name already this season, Sweetman-Kirk was looking to add to that tally. After she found space down the right her surging run took her into the area, but Lambourne pulled off an excellent save to deny her. Then, in first half injury time, she saw a similar effort cannon off the foot of the post with England just unable to connect with the rebound.
However, England did grab herself a goal on 58 minutes. A defensive error allowed Simpkins through on goal but she saw her effort blocked by Lambourne. Oxford couldn't clear the danger and Smith chipped in a cross which England glanced home from close range.
The second goal seemed to settle the Belles, who were content to pass the ball around within the Oxford half. They were still creating chances but were met by a goalkeeper in inspired form. Simpkins prodded an effort towards goal only to see the fingertips of Lambourne send it wide. Moments later, after slicing a clearance, the stopper recovered well to deny England a second.
She wasn't to be denied for long, though, as eight minutes from time the winger secured her brace. After some build-up play Sweetman-Kirk teed up England who slotted home from 12 yards out.
Two golden chances to secure a hat-trick then followed. Firstly, England fired over from the edge of the area before then being denied by the impressive Lambourne at point blank distance.
Three goals was enough for the Belles who wrapped up a win that could prove decisive come the final game of the season and, for the time being at least, a six point lead over title rivals Reading FC Women.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Hobbs, Lyndsey Cunningham, Rhiannon Roberts, Leandra Little, Lauren Cresswell (sub Sophie Barker 62mins), Jade Lorton-Radburn (sub Emily Roberts 62mins), Kasia Lipka, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Emily Simpkins (sub Ashleigh Mills 84mins), Sue Smith, Bethany England. Subs not used: Nicole Dale, Sam Tierney, Molly Johnson, Sophie Stamp.
Oxford Utd: Demi Lambourne, Chloe Bruce, Rosie Lane, Madison Lee (sub Lindsay Pinker 85mins), Laura Nichol, Kat Nutman, Sahara Osborne-Ricketts, Katie Stanley (sub Danielle Scanlon 69mins), Ella Franklin-Fraiture, Lauren Allison, Destiney Toussaint. Subs not used: Hannah Cox, Sophie Baker, Holly Pickett.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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