VIDEO & REPORT: Solitary Stewart strike downs resolute Belles

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A last-gasp Ellie Stewart goal secured a pre-season friendly win for Women’s Super League champions Liverpool LFC as they defeated a resilient Doncaster Rovers Belles outfit, writes Mark Donnelly.

With minutes to spare, Stewart nestled her header home to give Matt Beard’s title-winning Reds the victory at the Select Security Stadium on Saturday.

The visitors, whose new signings of midfielder Reanne Thomas and goalkeeper Shannon McCarney occupied the bench, started brightly as captain Sue Smith twisted and turned away from Gemma Bonner before whipping in a teasing cross which Millie Bright was inches away from connecting with.

It was the hosts however, who had the first main chance of the half. Natasha Dowie burst down the right wing before drilling in a low cross which Lucy Staniforth could only bundle wide from close range.

Gordon Staniforth’s Belles outfit then had an equally good chance of their own as Beth England fed Smith in the area but her effort was saved well.

Moments later, England beat Lucy Bronze easily down the right, before firing high and wide with options in the middle.

After a good spell of pressure from the visitors it was the turn of the hosts to push forward.

A Dowie effort was acrobatically tipped wide from Libby Stout before the resulting corner landed at the feet of Katrin Ómarsdóttir, but her shot was again saved by Stout.

Gemma Davison, a close season signing from Arsenal, was causing numerous problems for the visitors and her cross created panic in the Belles backline before it was eventually scrambled clear

As the half drew to a close, another good Davison cross found Kate Longhurst, who could only divert it wide.

Moments after the restart, the Belles thought they had taken the lead as Bright’s powerful effort stung the palms of the opposing ‘keeper before England could only fire the rebound over.

Following this early scare, Liverpool seized the initiative which came when a good Davison cross was nodded down by Longhurst, however, Dowie could only fire over.

Minutes later a free-kick was whipped in and met with a firm Katrin header which flew well wide.

Liverpool introduced Katie Zelem and Nicole Rolser just before the hour in an attempt to swing the game in their favour, and the former almost opened the scoring as she headed wide from another Davison cross.

At the the other end, a good ball from Smith found Jess Sigsworth who burst into the area before being brought down, only for the referee to wave away the Belles’ protests.

The Doncaster youngster then burst away down the left before cutting inside, only to see her goal bound effort blocked by the head of Martha Harris.

The hosts continued to apply pressure without creating any real chances, as the Belles’ defence remained strong under constant pressure.

And that pressure told with ten minutes remaining as Stewart rose highest to meet a corner and powered a header home.

This was the last action of the game as Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners.