Preview: Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers Belles

Gordon Staniforth says his side are 'up' for Sunderland. Photo: Darren Neagle.
Gordon Staniforth says his side are 'up' for Sunderland. Photo: Darren Neagle.
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Don’t lose and the title is still all to play for.

That’s the scenario facing the Belles this weekend as they prepare for the FAWSL2 ‘title decider’ against leaders Sunderland.

Only the top side can achieve promotion and Sunderland currently sit eight points adrift of Doncaster with three games remaining - including Saturday’s clash with second-placed Belles.

However, Doncaster have a game in hand over their promotion rivals so, come 9.30pm, Belles boss Gordon Staniforth and his side should know whether they have done enough to still be in with a chance of clinching that elusive solitary top spot which comes with promotion and the FAWSL2 title.

And Staniforth is more than ready for the Saturday night crunch match even though Sunderland will have home advantage.

“We’re up for the game, there’s no doubt about it,” said the Doncaster chief.

“There was talk of it going to be held at the Stadium of Light.

“If that was the case, it’d suit us because we’re used to playing on a big pitch with the Keepmoat Stadium being our home turf whereas Sunderland are used to a smaller pitch at the Hetton Centre.

“It could be a promotion-winning game for them but I’d love to spoil the party in all honesty.”

The pair have locked horns twice this season - both on Doncaster’s home soil in the league and FAWSL Continental Cup.

The Lady Black Cats drew first blood in the cup - with Beth Mead and Rachel Furness strikes bagging the North Easterners a 2-0 victory.

However, nothing could separate the pair when they clashed again which was in the league back in July and the promotion-chasing pair played out a 1-1 draw.

Sue Smith fired home first for Doncaster before Furness crashed the party again at the Keepmoat as they left clinching onto a point.

Staniforth believes that match should have been three points for the Belles and said the Sunderland contingent will know that Doncaster ‘murdered’ them.

“We’ve played them twice and outplayed them and had more goal opportunities. They could respond to us with ‘You haven’t beaten us’ but Saturday night’s game is the one that counts,” said Staniforth.

“Although, they could lose it and still get promotion.

“But I think, in the back of their minds, they know we murdered them when we drew 1-1.

“I believe that will stick with them too.

“We’ve had a bit of momentum since then.

“We’re a better team now than when we last played them.

“We’re gaining momentum each week.

“I’ve always said about peaking at the right time, could we be peaking at the right time? I firmly believe so.”

Staniforth is likely to have a fully fit squad to take to Sunderland after several players came back from injury - including Auckley’s Jess Sigsworth - and featured in their latest result which was a 4-1 victory over Millwall Lionesses on September 20.