Belles calm and confident ahead of Sunderland test

Gordon Staniforth. Picture: Kevin Neagle

Gordon Staniforth. Picture: Kevin Neagle

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Gordon Staniforth admits Saturday’s crunch match with Sunderland is “a big game” but is keen for his Belles players to not get drawn into the hype, writes Hayley Paterson.

Second-placed Doncaster are set to host the table-topping Lady Black Cats who remain unbeaten in their opening six FAWSL2 matches.

However, Belles chief Staniforth is in no mood to hype up the Keepmoat Stadium clash.

“These games are what you get into football for,” he told the Free Press.

“It’s been in my thoughts all week but we’re keeping our cool, we don’t want to make it too big.

“It’s a big game but we’re going to keep focused and not take our eyes off the ball.

“There’s not just one team in this league that we have to be aware of, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the likes of Reading, Millwall and Watford as well as Sunderland.

“There’s a long way to go yet.

“One game can’t define your season but we’ll be going into it to win.”

Although defeated 3-2 in their last game - a Continental Cup clash with FAWSL champions Liverpool - Staniforth says he and his players have taken plenty of confidence from their second half performance against the Reds.

“We were fantastic after the break,” Staniforth said.

“I was worried at half time because we were quite a way off the pace, but we reacted brilliantly.

“In that last 45, we looked as good as Liverpool if not better. I’d say that was one of our best displays this season.

“That second half display will be the benchmark for how we perform in future.”

Striker Jess Sigsworth netted in that Liverpool defeat but will be missing as she prepares for England U20s duty in Canada for August’s World Cup.

Staniforth will be looking towards new signing Courtney Sweetman-Kirk to lead from the front and has further boosts in the returns of England U19s duo Ashleigh Mills and Jemma Purfield.

“We’ll miss Jess and we wish her well for the World Cup, it’s a fantastic achievement for her,” the Belles boss added.

“Courtney has been brilliant since she’s come here and we’ll have Ash and Jemma back who are as keen as mustard and are in contention.”

Kick-off is 6.30pm.