A ruthless Sunderland side saw the Belles development team defeated 3-1 in the Development League Cup, writes Chris Donald.
Two goals from Chloe Johnson and one for Black Cats captain Natalie Gutteridge saw off a spirited Belles performance.
Belles skipper Charley Evans had pulled one back for the home side from the spot but it wasn’t enough for Gaz Lee’s team against last season’s Development League champions.
The Belles started the brighter with Drew Greene causing problems for the Sunderland defence, firing against the underside of bar in the early stages.
Megan Govier continued to impress in the Belles goal as she pulled off a string of saves to keep the visitors out.
The opener came midway through the first half when Johnson nodded home at the back post before Gutteridge smashed the ball past Govier from close range shortly after.
Evans’ penalty had got the Belles back into it just before the break after the referee spotted a handball in the area but it didn’t spark the comeback required.
Johnson completed her brace and the win late on when a scuffed shot fell kindly to her to slot into the bottom corner despite calls for the offside flag from the home side.
After the defeat, Lee remained positive and believes his side are heading in the right direction.
He said: “We made it difficult for them in spells, we played the right way and we created more chances but we weren’t as clinical as Sunderland today.
“They proved why they won the league and went on such a great run but we’re going forward and progressing.
“Morale is nice and high in the dressing room and we’re quietly confident that it will be just a matter of time.
“This is a fresh team with an average age of around 17 and in the past two weeks we’ve made progress already.”