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BELLES DEFY THE ODDS

Birmingham City 0 Doncaster Rovers Belles 0 THE new look Belles defied the pundits as they held on for a point in their opening Premier League match against a side strongly tipped to do well this season.

Manager John Buckley fielded six new players, including three teenagers, following the departure of seven established stars and the new girls did him proud in a battling display.

Eighteen-year-old Catherine Beaver, signed from Manchester United, was outstanding in goal, 15-year-old Danni Harthen had an excellent game at the back and 17-year-old right winger Kerrie Stephenson also made a big impact.

Also making promising debuts were American midfielder Tiffany Mears, former Leeds United striker Michelle Walsh and Stacey Copeland produced a skilful return to the club on the left flank.

Buckley said: "All the girls played well.

"Not one of them let the side down and I think we might have proved a point to the doom and gloom merchants."

The Belles boss also paid a special tribute to England international midfielder Vicky Exley and defender Claire Utley who refused to join the exodus and have stayed loyal to the club.

He said: "Being able to keep them has given everyone a lift.

"They are both outstanding players and they have held the side together."

Newly appointed skipper Exley was in magnificent form and went close to making the breakthrough after dribbling through in the first half.

Teenage striker Sarah Owens, who turned out despite suffering from a virus infection, also went close and former Belles keeper Jo Fletcher was the busier of the two keepers in the first half.

Belles had to defend when Birmingham pressed hard for a winner after the interval but showed plenty of grit and determination as they held on for a point.

Buckley added: "People were writing us off but I think this performance showed we are not going to roll over for anybody.

"I'm not saying we are going to win the championship but there is a good spirit in the side and we will make sure all our opponents know they have been in a game."

* Belles face a tough test on Sunday when they entertain championship favourites Everton who signed Jody Handley and Becky Easton from them in the summer and have won both their opening games in style.

The game kicks off at 2pm at Cantley Park.

 
 
 

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