Doncaster Rovers Belles strengthened their grip on top spot in FA Women’s Super League 2 as they scraped past local rivals Sheffield.
First half goals from Kirsty Hanson and Jess Sigsworth paved the way for a straightforward afternoon but Sheffield winger Sophie Jones’ finish early in the second half complicated matters until she had the misfortune to put through her own net.
The hosts began the scoring when Hanson rifled home from the edge of the area past the despairing dive of Danielle Gibbons. An inch-perfect ball was slipped through by Christie Murray and the winger duly found the bottom corner.
Gibbons was beaten less than three minutes later when Sigsworth doubled the advantage by holding off the attentions of Niamh Cashin and coolly finishing.
Sheffield weren’t about to roll over though and provided some stubborn resistance through the rest of the first half as conditions worsened.
Murray clipped the outside of the post, Leandra Little’s glancing header was cleared off the line and Gibbons was on hand to beat away Sigsworth’s firm effort ten minutes from the interval.
The visitors’ spirited fight was rewarded when Hannah Cain’s through ball found Jones who kept her head to round the previously untroubled Bethan Davies and slot in to the empty net.
That set up a grandstand finish until Jones scored at the wrong end from Murray’s corner and then saw her late penalty saved ensuring Emma Johnson’s long-range screamer in added time was in vain.
Belles boss Kate Rowson said: “It was a derby in the truest sense. We made hard work of it but its three points and we’re top of the table at Christmas.
“We’ve got to take the rough with the smooth. We had a fantastic performance last Sunday and on Wednesday, we didn’t get that today but we got the result.
“We made hard work of it. We let them back in it and fair play to Sheffield because they kept working to the end but we shouldn’t have let that happen.
“I’m really proud of the girls and the individual performances. We’re a third of the way through but the hard work starts now because once you’re there, you can’t let up. ”
Sheffield manager Zoe Johnson said: “Overall I’m disappointed that we’ve nowhere near performed to our capability. The girls responded well to words at half time to put it right as we didn’t turn up at all in the first half.
“They came out and showed a positive reaction, it was so crucial playing against a team like the Belles to get an early goal (in the second half) and they’ve done that and I can’t fault them because they kept pressing to the end but we have to improve our quality in possession quickly.
“Sometimes you miss penalties and Sophie Jones, who missed, is absolutely devastated but she has grafted for 90 minutes and she shouldn’t be disappointed but proud of that performance.
“I would have liked to have come here and taken a point which would have been a fantastic result going in to the Christmas break.”
* Belles: Davies; Bradley-Auckland, Roberts, Little, Barker; Hanson, Tierney, Walton, Sigsworth (Watson 85), Murray, Rayner.
* Sheffield: Gibbons, Kemp, Cashin, Cox Gilliatt; McCue; Jones, Lord-Mears, Johnson, Dale; Cain.
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