Thursday, 15 May 2014

Doncaster Rovers Belles 0 v Sunderland AFC Ladies 2 - FAWSL Continental Cup

Thursday 15th May 2014
at the Keepmoat Stadium
FAWSL Continental Cup
Doncaster Rovers Belles (0) 0
Sunderland Ladies (2) 2
Bethany Mead 5
Rachel Furness 23
Admission £6. Programme £3, Attendance 321
Left click images to enlarge.
Doncaster Rovers Belles
1 Nicola Hobbs, 2 Lyndsey Cunningham, 4 Leandra Little, 5 Jessica Sigsworth, 6 Kasia Lipka, 8 Sue Smith, 10 Millie Bright, 11 Bethany England (16 Ashleigh Mills HT), 12 Reanne Thomas (24 Hope Knight 76 mins), 20 Rhiannon Roberts, 23 Lauren Cresswell  (15 Victoria Williams HT),  
Unused subs - 3 Naomi Chadwick, 21 Emma Johnson
Sunderland AFC Ladies
1 Rachael Laws, 2  Abby Holmes, 3 Victoria Greenwell, 5 Stephanie Bannon, 6 Gemma Wilson, 7 Keira Ramshaw, 8 Kelly McDougall, 9 Beth Mead, 10 Emma Kelly (11 Rebekah Bass 72 mins), 14 Rachel Furness, 17  Abbey Joice (15 Tyler Dodds 80 mins),
Unused subs - 12 Megan Beer, 33 Charlotte Potts, 44 Helen Alderson
Both of tonight's teams have won all three of their league games in the FASWL Division 2 so far this season, which indicated that this would be a close game.
But 'Donny' came into the game full of confidence, hanging ten on the crest of a wave, having just recorded 5 straight wins in a row, in all competitions, while the Black Cats had lost their previous game, 6-0 v. Liverpool, in a Continental Cup fixture.
The Belles started on the front foot when Sue Smith attacked down the left flank, but her cross came to nothing as the visitors back four closed ranks and cleared the ball away.
Just five minutes into the game, Abbey Joice won possession in the middle of the park and quickly played the ball forward to Rachel Furness, who in turn knocked a weighted pass into the path of Beth Mead ... the Sunderland striker advanced forward a few steps, took aim and thumped the ball past Nicola Hobbs into the back of the net to open the scoring.
A well worked move, finished off with a quality strike, 0-1.
Two minutes later Leandra Little had to be alert to stop Mead getting another shot in from a similar range.
Sunderland attacked again and Steph Bannon headed narrowly wide from a Victoria Greenwell free kick from out on the right flank.
Greenwell was Sunderland's dead ball specialist and also featured in an enduring personal duel against the Belles winger Sue Smith all night, which made for an interesting sub plot, to the main event.
Having absorbed a spell of pressure from their impressive visitors, Gordon Stainforth's side gained the impetus for a while and went in search of an equaliser.
Bethany England picked out Jess Sigworth with a pass from midfield and sent her on a run down the right flank, but Sigworth's cross was intercepted before it reached Smith who had timed her run into the visitors area well.
Moments later, England went for goal herself, bulging the side netting from 12 yards out, with an effort that had the home fans on their feet because it looked as though, the Belles lively number 11 had scored from up in the stand.
Sigworth was hacked down by Steph Bannon, just outside the Sunderland area as she cut in from the left flank. But England's free kick routine with Little, saw the latter narrowly fail to connect with a measured ball into the six yard box.
In the 23rd minute, the home side were punished for not taking the initiative while they were in the ascendancy, when Steph Bannon's long free kick into the box, found the head of Furness, who directed the ball beyond the reach of Hobbs. There wasn't much the Belles keeper could've done about that, other than ask who was supposed to be picking Furness up at set pieces.
Doncaster were having a lot of possession and getting forward regularly enough, but Sunderland were very efficient and stubborn at the back and dealt effectively with any kind of threat that the home side posed. 
Millie Bright forced a corner kick out of the Sunderland defence when a her break down the right flank was curtailed. But the ball glanced off of Bright's head as Smith swung the resultant corner across the face of goal.
Kasia Lipka knocked the ball out to Smith and the lively Belles winger played yet another dangerous looking cross into the six yard box. Amidst the scrummage of bodies that went for the ball, Rachael Laws, the Black Cats keeper and Bethany England collided heavily.
Play stopped for several minutes, while both players received treatment.
Though they both carried on, England didn't come back out for the second half because she'd taken a knock in the back that was troubling her.
Sunderland had two further opportunities to increase their lead before the break.
Emma Kelly, made a dribbling run towards the Belles area, the defence closed her run down, but that left a space for Mead to run into, Kelly knocked the ball forward to her, but this time the Black Cats striker miscued her shot and the ball went harmlessly high and wide of the mark.
And in the dying moments of the first half, Kelly and Mead combined on the right flank, to set up Kelly McDougall, who couldn't keep her shot down ... and a wild finish vanished up into the back of the South Stand.
At half time, Donny Belles made a double substitution, with Victoria Williams and Ashleigh Mills, replacing Lauren Cresswell and Bethany England.
Mills made such an impression on the game in the second half, that she won tonight's (wo)man of the match award, or 'Belle of the ball' as it is aptly called around these parts, as voted for by the crowd. I could see why Mills had the honour bestowed on her as well, given that she injected no small amount life and ideas into the home sides attacking options, causing Sunderland no end of problems along the way, with her quick footwork ... that said, I actually voted for Sue Smith myself, because she'd bust a gut for the Belles cause over the whole 90 minutes.
Mills was excellent when she came on after 45 minutes, but Smith was very good throughout the whole game ... but both were worthy contenders, in my humble and unknowledgable opinion.
And Sunderlands goalkeeper Rachael Laws deserved a special mention too, especially for her second half heroics.
Mills and Williams - double half time substitution for the Belles
After the break, Doncaster played an open, fluent and fast flowing attacking game and the home crowd upped the noise and created a great atmosphere in appreciation of their sides efforts.
More importantly, the Belles half time reshuffle had plugged a few gaps and Sunderland's supply lines to their forwards had been nipped in the bud. Sadly, for the home side, the damage had already been done inside the opening 30 minutes.
Williams almost got a goal back with her first touch from a Reanne Thomas corner, but Laws, who was to have an inspired second half, saved the Belles substitute's close range header.
Laws was in the thick of it again, pulling off a great save from Sigsworth, before Smith rattled the ball against the crossbar.
Just before the hour, the Sunderland defence stepped forward, the linesman's flag stayed down and Sue Smith was clean through, one against one with Law. The Belles firebrand placed the ball well to the keepers right, but Laws got down well to save with one hand and deflect the ball around the post.
The ref waved away a penalty appeal from Mills, as Sunderland hacked away Thomas's header from virtually under the bar.
The second half belonged to Doncaster Rovers Belles.
But alas, Rachael Laws was holding on and looking after it for them.
Mills was tearing about all over the place by this point. It was difficult for Sunderland to check her runs and predict her movements, such was the off the cuff approach, combined with pace and close control she employed.
Another close range headed opportunity fell to Reanne Thomas, who agonisingly put the ball just over the bar, much to the away sides relief.
Smith dribbled her way into the box, but the ball sat up unkindly just as she was about to shoot and her weak effort was turned away by Kelly McDougall, at the expense of a corner.
Kasia Lipka and Victoria Williams both tried their luck with long shots to no avail, on what was obviously now turning into 'one of those nights' for the Belles.
Mills, Sigworth and Smith were keeping the Black Cats defence busy right up until the final whistle, but when it came, despite the virtually one way and one sided nature of the second half, Sunderland, and in particular Rachael Laws, had repelled a very spirited and determined 45 minutes of attacking football from the Belles and held onto the two goal lead that they had earned (and thoroughly deserved) in the first half.
The crowd generously applauded both sides off the pitch at the end of the game.
Doncaster Rovers Belles are at home again on Sunday, when they face Watford Ladies at the Keepmoat Stadium, DN4 5JW, kick off 2pm, to read the preview --> CLICK HERE, they then face four away games in a row, before Sunderland AFC Ladies are the visitors to the Keepmoat Stadium again ,on Saturday 26th July, kick off 6.30pm.
Sunderland are at home to London Bees on Sunday, 2pm at the Hetton Centre, Rachael Laws will be hoping for a quieter game than the one she had tonight.