Sheffield FC Ladies chasing Belles' top-team mantle

Doncaster Rovers Belles have been the highest ranked women's team locally for many years, but will that proud record stretch into 2017 when the FA Women's Super League will change from being a summer season league to a winter one?

A 4-0 defeat at Sunderland last Saturday left Belles rooted to the bottom of the WSL 1 table and without a point from their five games to date.

A fairly even contest swung Sunderland’s way in the second part of the first half. Belles captain Leandra Little was dismissed for a challenge on Beth Mead to deny a goal-scoring opportunity. Sunderland capitalised on their numerical advantage to go into the break 3-0 up.

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Meanwhile, in WSL 2 Sheffield FC Ladies are showing very encouraging form, though it would arguably require near maximum points from their remaining 11 games to clinch one of the two promotion places available.

Jodie Michalska scored the game’s only goal as Sheffield emerged victorious at home to Everton. Sheffield are currently seventh with seven points from seven games. The current top duo of Yeovil Town and Briistol City have 23 and 20 points respectively, having both played 10 games.

In both WSL 1 and WSL 2 two key factors are the imbalance of fixtures played and also the quality of the opposition in those fixtures.

Belles will need maximum points from the return against Sunderland and also both games against Reading to stand any realistic chance of avoiding the drop.

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Sunderland are on six points from nine games and Reading four from seven, the two meetings between the pair having ended in draws.

Belles have been in a division higher than any other local team each season since a national league structure was introduced in 1991. Their first appearance in a run of 11 finals in 12 years began in 1983.