A huge positive for relegated Doncaster Rovers Belles in their 2-0 FA Women’s Super League at Arsenal yesterday was the return to action of Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
The striker, on her first appearance of the season after a complicated ankle injury, said: “It’s been a tough year for me, really hard, but hopefully I can become a better player.
“It’s also been tough watching the girls in a season where nothing’s seemed to go right for us, and today was a typical example of that.
“We did really well in the first half but errors then cost us for both goals, and we know that if you don’t take your chances and then make mistakes then top teams are going to make you pay.”
The player who made them pay was Arsenal and England striker Jodie Taylor, who scored both.
The 30-year-old preseason signing had missed practically the whole campaign through injury, but made up for lost time as she opened the scoring in the 66th minute – just six minutes after she had entered the fray as substitute.
And eight minutes later her second goal assured victory and condemned the bottom of the table Belles to their 15th straight defeat.
Arsenal had been in control before Taylor’s introduction but never looked like repeating their 5-0 win at Doncaster earlier this month.
Winger Chloe Kelly and midfielder Danielle van de Donk both went close to giving them an early lead, but the Belles forced their way into contention and in the 34th minute defender Rhiannon Roberts had a header saved by goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
It was not until a double substitution on the hour, when strikers Taylor and Asisat Oshoala were sent on, that the Gunners began to fire.
Taylor broke the deadlock with a close-range finish from left back Emma Mitchell’s cross, and the striker doubled her tally when she struck home the loose ball after keeper Anna Moorhouse had blocked an Alex Scott shot.
The result kept Arsenal’s slim chance of a Champions League place alive ahead of Chelsea’s evening meeting with Reading, at which victory for Blues would give them European football next season and leave the Gunners in third place in FA WSL 1.
Arsenal (4-1-2-3): Sari van Veenendaal; Alex Scott, Leah Williamson, Josephine Henning, Emma Mitchell; Fara Williams; Jordan Nobbs, Danielle van de Donk; Chloe Kelly, Danielle Carter, Katie McCabe.
Substitutes: Asisat Oshoala for McCabe, 60, Jodie Taylor for Kelly, 60, Dominique Janssen for Williams, 72.
Substitutes not used: Emma Byrne, Charlie Devlin, Riana Dean, Taylor Hinds.
Red cards: None
Doncaster Rovers Belles (4-1-4-1): Anna Moorhouse; Sophie Barker, Rhiannon Roberts, Leandra Little, Mayumi Pacheco; Samantha Tierney; Carla Humphrey, Emily Simpkins, Kasia Lipka, Katrin Omarsdottir; Christie Murray.
Substitutes: Rachel Newborough for Omarsdottir, 57, Rebecca Raynor for Murray, 72, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk for Lipka, 81.
Substitutes not used: Nicola Hobbs, Marta Bakowska-Matthews.
Red cards: None
Referee: Mr J. Smith
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