Doncaster Belles ended Sheffield FC’s run of four straight wins to inch closer to the FA WSL 2 title thanks to second half goals from Rebecca Rayner and Emily Simpkins.
Former Belles player Hannah Cain opened the scoring for Sheffield FC but they couldn’t hold on in the feisty South Yorkshire affair which saw several players pick up cautions.
Despite three goals there was a distinct lack of clear opportunities for both sides, but the Belles stay top of the table while Sheffield FC remain in fifth after the loss.
It was Zoe Johnson’s who threatened to continue their winning run during what was a disciplined first half, and they took the lead when Cain turned home a pull back from striker Melissa Johnson after 28 minutes.
Belles’ best chance of the first half had come inside the first 60 seconds when Rhiannon Roberts saw her header from a corner cleared off the line by Sarah Jackson at point blank range.
Neil Redfearn introduced the lively Rayner at the break and the move paid immediate dividends when the forward burst into life and equalised after being on the pitch for just 10 minutes.
Cutting in from the left Rayner unleashed a stinging effort which seemed to bounce just in front of Danielle Gibbons and over the keeper’s dive to the corner.
The goal swung momentum towards the league leaders and 10 minutes later Emily Simpkins got on the end of a Kirsty Hanson cross which evaded everyone to seal the three points for the Belles.
WHAT THEY SAID
Sheffield’s Zoe Johnson said: “We knew they were going to come straight at us in the second half and we were second to everything.
“Our touch just wasn’t right, we didn’t get possession of the ball and there were some tired legs out there.
“We just panicked at times in the second half, it’s just one of those things where we weren’t good enough in the second half.
“We were disciplined in the first half, we were solid at the back and frustrated Belles but we said to the girls to be prepared at the break because we’d missed some chances, if we’d done that it could have been different.”
Match-winner Emily Simpkins said: “It’s the sign of a great team coming back from 1-0 down when the pressure’s on, we need that point now to guarantee ourselves the league and we did ourselves proud tonight.
“We came in with our heads down at half-time but Neil told us we weren’t actually doing too bad, it was just a case of our characters going out there and believing which we did in the second half.
“Bex coming on at half-time changed things for us. She’s a young girl but she turned the game around for us, she got the first goal and I’d like to see the stats for her. She got on the ball, passed well and well done to her.
“We couldn’t shift them first half so we changed our shape at half-time and started to shift them a bit more out wide.”
High-flying Brighton remain second in the FA WSL 2 table after a hard-fought win against Watford.
The Seagulls hit four goals at home against The Hornets four days ago and moved four points clear of third-placed Millwall thanks to a strike from Aileen Whelan on 40 minutes.
Brighton were indebted to keeper Lucy Gillett, who saved Helen Ward’s 80th-minute penalty to seal the victory.
Brighton bossed possession early on but Watford had a penalty shout turned down after Linda Afuakwah’s right-wing cross struck Fliss Gibbons’ arm on 10 minutes.
Charlotte Kerr fired wide following a flowing move, but the visitors always looked the more likely to strike.
Kirsty Barton went close for Brighton with a long-range effort, Chloe Peplow sent a dipping shot inches over the crossbar and Gibbons troubled home ‘keeper Fran Kitching with a first-time volley.
Watford battled away and arguably deserved to be level at the break, but Whelan, who had been lively all game, broke the deadlock with a mishit snapshot that deceived Kitching at the near post for a half-time lead.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and almost doubled the lead when Jenna Legg thundered a 25-yard effort against the crossbar on 50 minutes.
Penning Watford back, Whelan forced Kitching into a full-length save just past the hour.
After weathering enormous pressure, Watford blew a gilt-edged chance to equalise when Ward failed to score from the spot after Adekite Fatuga-Dada was fouled in the penalty area.
WHAT THEY SAID
Brighton boss Hope Powell: “We dominated the game but sadly could not convert as many chances as we should have done.
“That gave Watford more confidence, the longer the game went on and certainly in the second half they started to apply more pressure, which became a little bit nervy for us at times.
“And then they got the penalty, which fortunately for us was saved.”
Watford boss Armand Kavaja: “The girls are getting more confident, they are young and when they came into these games were shocked at the level but now they are starting to believe in themselves.
“It was a solid performance against a top team. We had all the development team, apart from two, playing against a team that will be in FA WSL 1 and almost got something from the game.
“Everything is about planning for next season, we are giving every girl a chance to be a part of it.”
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