Doncaster Rovers Belles claimed their first win of the season following a solitary second half strike from Sue Smith against former club Lincoln Ladies.
Rock-bottom Belles faced their fellow FAWSL strugglers in a tie that will not be played next season following an FA application process which led to Doncaster being demoted to WSL2 and Lincoln set to be rebranded as Notts County next term.
Billed as a ‘must-win’ for the hosts, Belles were keen to erase their recent 9-0 drubbing to Liverpool and started well. They struck the first blow when a searching Smith cross was met by Millie Bright, but the forward’s diving header sailed narrowly wide in the third minute.
Ashleigh Mills was then forced into a clearance on the line from an Aileen Whelan effort as Belles keeper Nicola Davies saved an earlier Bonnie Horwood rasping strike for the visitors.
Imps forward Courtney Sweetman-Kirk later rounded Davies but a heavy touch forced her out of play as Lincoln pressed again with a long range Jess Clarke effort that flashed past the post.
Smith then cut in from the right and curled a shot into the arms of Karen Bardsley in the 37th minute before former Belles player Lillie Fenlon-Billson tested Davies from distance.
The Keepmoat Stadium erupted in the 51st minute as Smith converted her first goal of the season and against her former team-mates.
The midfielder took over the ball after a determined run from Bright into the area, Smith shifted on to her left and drilled an effort into the bottom corner past the sprawling left hand of Bardsley for 1-0.
Lincoln had the perfect opportunity to equalise after Whelan was fouled in the area around the 70th minute mark, however, Remi Allen saw her spot-kick into the bottom corner saved by the feet of Davies as the Belles shot-stopper denied the follow-up to cap off a fine performance for the former Chelsea goalkeeper.
Lincoln pressed but could not find that elusive equaliser as Belles’ determination shone through during a confident performance - and arugably one of their best displays of the season.
The win sees Belles still bottom but within a point of seventh-placed Lincoln.
Doncaster next travel to Arsenal on Sunday. Kick-off 12.30pm.
Photos by Andrew Roe.
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