Sunday, 16 March 2014

Doncaster Rovers Belles 4 v Copsewood Coventry 1 - FA Women's Cup R4

Sunday 16th March 2014
at the Keepmoat Stadium
FA Women's Cup 4th Round
Doncaster Rovers Belles (2) 4
Leandra Little 3, 46
Beth England 28
Jess Sigworth 76
Copsewood Coventry (1) 1
Leah Williams 33
Admission £6. Programme £3. Attendance 180
Left click THIS LINK to see more pictures from this afternoon's Women's FA Cup 4th Round game at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Left click images used in this post to enlarge.
Doncaster Rovers Belles:
Hobbs, Cunningham, Little (C), Sigsworth, Lipka (Mills 68), Smith, Bright, England, Williams, Roberts, Cresswell
Unused Subs - Cox, E. Johnson, Knight, M. Johnson
Copsewood Coventry:
Duncan, Woodcock, Makinde, French (Deacon 66), Jones, Mole, Kennedy, Rowles, Knight (Harvey 58), Williams (Shoker 68), Foskett (C)
Unused Subs - McGuckin, McCook
Links to external websites:
Match report from Doncaster Rovers Belles website
Match report from Copsewood Coventry website
Three minutes gone, 1-0 to Donny Belles courtesy of Leandra Little
Doncaster Rovers Belles, previously Doncaster Belles and Belle Vue Belles, have been around since 1969 and for a very long time they were the dominant force in English women's football.
In fact they were so successful, that when Vic Akers Arsenal team beat them 2-1 at Highbury in the 1992-93 season, in front of a crowd of 18,196, it was only their second defeat in 15 years.
With that kind of pioneering and trail blazing heritage, you would have thought that the FA would uphold the Belles status as some kind of jewel in the crown of women's football. Alas, the FA don't work like that ... and last year, before their league season even began, Donny Belles were told that they would be relegated into a newly formed EAWSL second division, regardless of their final league position.
Arsenal's Vic Akers called the FA's decision "morally scandalous" ... and he is 100% right.
A group called Belles Noisy Fans protested loudly outside last season's Women's FA Cup final, between Arsenal and Bristol Academy; which the FA, showing a massive amount of pompous disrespect and bombastic clumsiness, even by their own dubious standards, decreed would be played in Doncaster, at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The FA ordered the stewards at the ground to break up the protest and confiscate banners, petitions and the supporters group's trademark bells.
One must wonder if the initials FA, stand for Football Association at all sometimes, or if they're an acronym for two far ruder, but more apt words, beginning with the same letters.
It's boom time for women's football in this country, but while all the new converts lapped up the occasion, I shook my head in disgusted disbelief and went home instead of watching the game.
In my humble opinion, the women's game in this country is only in the position that it is in today because of the trailblazing endeavours of the Belles and, not to put too fine a point on it: they've been crapped on from a great height!
It was good to see the Belles playing in yellow and blue today, just like they used to when I first saw them play at Armthorpe Welfare's ground, in the work hard, play hard days of yore, when slide tackling and clattering opponents from behind wasn't frowned on as much as it is today..
Any cynic who entered the Welfare Ground on Church Street in those days, thinking that women couldn't tackle properly and that it would be all handbags at ten paces, was left in no doubt about what fiercely competitive and borderline challenges meant.
Towards the end of today's game, there was a moment when the Belles 'enforcer' Millie Bright wasn't entirely shy about getting stuck in, that served as a timely reminder of the 'good old days'.
By comparison, this afternoon's visitors from the West Midlands have a more modest history.
Copsewood Coventry, were formed in 2000 as Coventry Marconi Ladies FC. They continued in that guise for a further five years, when the club's connections with the Marconi Group in Coventry, where most of their original players worked, ended and they decamped to become part of a new sporting and social club in the city called Copsewood. They have now played in the Midland Combination for six consecutive seasons.
Their current manager, Ryan Conneely, took over the reins from his dad Mick, in 2011.
Copsewood are looking to progress, this afternoon's test was a good barometer for them to test themselves against one of the top teams in the country, who have held on to the nucleus of last seasons top flight players.
The visitors gave a really good account of themselves at times. And though Doncaster looked much fitter as the game wore on, pretty much as you'd expect, which ultimately saw them comfortably win this cup tie, the Coventry side had their moments and they also had a few stand out players of their own.
It was a shame when Rebecca Jane Knight had to go off, because she'd put in a great shift against the Belles uncompromising central defenders and worked well with her strike partner (and goalscorer) Leah Williams.
Hannah Jones, in the middle of the Copsewood defence, had her work cut out containing Sue Smith, Beth England and Leandra Little, but she bust a gut all afternoon to stamp her uncompromising slant on defending on the game. I wouldn't want her to kick me!
But the visitors star player, for me, was their keeper Nikki Duncan, who, in spite of being beaten four times, pulled off a string of quality saves to keep the score down.
While the Belles will probably have thought their efforts deserved a greater margin of victory; the Coventry side didn't deserve to get turned over in light of their hard work and persistent resistance.
Jess Sigsworth was pivotal to a lot of the Belles best moments this afternoon and deservedly won her man/woman/player of the match award (as voted for by the crowd), or 'Belle of the ball' as it is rather fittingly called around these parts.
There were others who weren't far behind Sigsworth for the part they played in this victory. Some might say that 'Donny' could've been a bit more clinical in the final third, but as I've already mentioned, Copsewood's keeper, Nikki Duncan, played out of her skin today and had a big say in that particular argument.
When the Belles captain, Leandra Little put the home side ahead after just three minutes, the game already looked like an academic formality. Particularly when after pretty much setting up base camp in and around the Copsewood area for the next 25 minutes, the home side went two ahead, when Beth England added the finishing touch to another Little effort that was possibly already going in anyway, on 28 minutes.
But the visitors had other ideas and on 33 minutes, Leah Williams raced forward to chase a neat forward pass from midfield, took the ball in her stride for a few yards and smashed a dipping shot over Nicola Hobbs as she advanced from her line to deal with the danger, while her chasing back four were left flat footed by Williams powerful run. 2-1 ... and although the Belles had been tormenting the hard working Copsewood defence for over half an hour, it was still very much, game on.
Halving the deficit put a real spring in Ryan Conneely's sides step, but as the teams went off at the break, Doncaster must've been wondering why they were only sat on such a slender lead.
HT 2-1
If it is considered a psychological blow to concede a goal just before the half time interval, then watching your keeper picking the ball out of the net inside the first twenty seconds of the second half before any of your players have even touched the ball, must be far worse. Leandra Little buried a neat shot on the turn past Nikki Duncan straight from the restart, to deal a real hammer blow to the visitors half time dreams of pulling off a result at the Keepmoat.
No disrespect to Copsewood, but the Belles fitness was always going to be a big factor after the break and the timing of the goal meant that the visitors could now push forward and chase an unlikely 'giant killing' result, which would now require them to score three more goals, or they could hang in there and stick to the same game plan they had already been adopting.
So basically the available options were: 1) push forward and be left exposed at the back against an attack minded Belles team, or 2) close ranks and play a damage limitation game and hope that there might be another breakaway goal at some point over the next 44 minutes.
Credit where it is due, they chose to dig in and try containing their WSL Division 1 hosts, instead of embarking on a suicidal 'charge of the light brigade' policy ... and they restricted the Belles to just one more goal, a great strike from Jess Sigsworth on 76 minutes, which capped off a great performance for the 'Donny' number five.
I don't think that the final outcome was ever in doubt once the Belles captain Leandra Little had put her side 3-1 ahead, but Coventry Copsewood had enjoyed a few memorable moments of their own and will have learnt some valuable lessons from playing against a side who are obviously geared up to pushing for honours under Gordon Stainforth this season. He's now enjoyed victory in his first two games in charge, with the Belles already having knocked Aston Villa out of the cup in the 3rd round.
FT 4-1
Click THIS LINK for You Tube match highlights via the Belles official website