Doncaster Belles: Staniforth remains positive over promotion

Sue Smith gave Belles a 13th minute lead. Photo: Malcolm Billingham
Sue Smith gave Belles a 13th minute lead. Photo: Malcolm Billingham
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Belles chief Gordon Staniforth refused to be too downbeat following their draw with league leaders Sunderland.

A win would have propelled the Belles back into the top spot of the FA Women’s Super League 2, a point clear of the Lady Black Cats, and in the driving seat for that all-important promotion spot.

But a Rachel Furness wonder strike for Sunderland at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday night cut the party short as the visitors maintained their place at the league’s summit.

Things started with a bang for the Belles as Sue Smith angled a powerful shot into the far corner for a 13th minute lead.

And the chances came, particularly through new signing Courtney Sweetman-Kirk who was keen to impress in place of striker Jess Sigsworth who was on World Cup duty for England’s Under-20.

Sophie Williams came close to levelling, but her delicate chip over Doncaster ‘keeper Nicola Hobbs was cleared by Leandra Little.

Reanne Thomas should have scored when Sweetman-Kirk found her with a sublime throughball, but the Belles midfielder fired straight at Rachel Laws in the Sunderland goal.

Five minutes later the Belles were punished as an error led to Furness collecting the ball before unleashing a stunning strike past Hobbs for a 33rd minute leveller.

“I was pleased in one way, I thought we were magnificent,” Stainforth admitted after the game.

“I thought we created a lot of chances first half, we could’ve been out of sight by half time but I’m disappointed with the result.

“There’s still a long way to go [in the league]. I reminded the girls of that after the game, I told them it was a great effort but there’s a long way to the finish line.

He went on: “To go into the half 1-1, that’s really disappointing.

“There’s a hint of a disappointment but we got a draw, we didn’t get beat.

“I said a long time ago there would be some twists and turns during this second half of the season.

“We were very good, especially the first half. We just needed that little rub of the green to get the winner.”

After neither side were able to clinch that elusive winner in the second half, Staniforth believes that with 11 games to go his side and Sunderland are the ones most capable of clinching the FAWSL2 title.

“We are by far the better teams, we’re creating more chances, we’ve got better defences, although we’ve still got to be wary of Reading and probably Millwall,” he said.

“I think us two will go right to the wire.”

The Belles, who meet Sunderland again in October, will this Saturday travel to lowly Durham who have struggled to make an impact in the newly-formed FAWSL2 division.