Doncaster Rovers Belles face difficult start to FAWNL campaign

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Doncaster Rovers Belles start their 2022/23 FAWNL Division One Midlands campaign at Lincoln City on Sunday.

Following on from the euphoria of England’s memorable Euro 2022 triumph last month, the game at the LNER Stadium will be one of several FAWNL fixtures played at men’s main stadiums.

It is arguably the toughest start Belles could have had to the season in their bid to climb out of the fourth tier.

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Having finished runners up last term, expectations for Andy Butler’s charges will be high this time around.

Photo: Julian BarkerPhoto: Julian Barker
Photo: Julian Barker

Belles finished just two points behind champions Boldmere St Michaels, while Lincoln were in third place just a solitary point behind Belles.

Bedworth United and Burton Albion were the teams relegated.

New teams in the division this season are Sheffield FC (relegated from the Northern Premier Division), Northampton Town (promoted as East Midlands Premier Division champions) and Stourbridge (promoted as West Midlands Premier Division champions).

Belles concluded their pre-season friendlies with a 4-1 win away to York City on Sunday.

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Belles have augmented their squad by signing five development squad players in Louisa Barraclough, Izzy Gigg, Phoebe Marrow, Amy Nowell and Sidni Simmons.

Returning to the Belles’ fold after a spell with Sheffield FC is another teenager, Olivia Harness, who had a full season playing in tier three last term.

Belles won 15 out of 22 games last season but failed to beat any of their top four rivals: Boldmere, Lincoln and Long Eaton United.

Jasmine Saxton finished as the division’s top scorer with 19 goals, while goalkeeper Ellie Sharpe kept the most clean sheets (10).

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Belles were crowned FAWSL2 champions lin 2018 but were then forced to withdraw from the newly-named FA Women’s Championship for financial reasons after their major sponsor pulled out.

A young and inexperienced team were subsequently relegated from the FAWNL Northern Premier Division – and were struggling in the fourth tier until the appointment of Butler as boss in January 2020.

Belles will have a new home this season – Club Thorne Colliery’s Iqbal Poultry Stadium.