Doncaster Rovers Belles looking up under guidance of Andy Butler

Doncaster Rovers Belles made it back-to-back 1-0 wins at the start of the FAWNL Division One Midlands season with a home victory over Sporting Khalsa on Sunday.

By Julian Barker
Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 6:00 am
Lauren Breen fires in a shot against Sporting Khalsa. Photo: Julian Barker
Lauren Breen fires in a shot against Sporting Khalsa. Photo: Julian Barker

Sophie Scargill struck the only goal of the game with a beautiful hook shot from just outside the six-yard box following a ball across the penalty area by Jess Price on 73 minutes.

Overall, it was a game Belles could and should have won by a more comfortable margin.

Jasmine Saxton had a shot blocked by Sporting goalkeeper Stacey Garnham when she broke clear in the best of Belles’ first half moves.

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Saxton’s angled strike was touched onto the bar by Garnham at 0-0 in the second half. Lauren Breen also tried her luck with a couple of shots from outside the area in her spell as substitute.

At the other end Ellie Sharpe was not unduly troubled.

Belles also won 1-0 at Burton Albion in their season opener.

After a mixed pre-season results-wise, Belles find themselves in third spot in the table, one of three teams with a maximum six points. The leading duo of Solihull Moors and Long Eaton United both have a very healthy goal difference already.

Belles are the only team in the division not to have conceded a goal but their defence will face its biggest test yet against Lincoln tomorrow night.

There is still a lot of football to be played with every team playing 24 games this season due to upward promotion resulting in increased divisional sizes.

Lincoln’s 1-0 home defeat to newly-promoted Leek Town was an early season shock result and a reminder that there are no easy games.

What is clear is that Belles can continue to look upwards under the managership of Andy Butler.

Life was understandably difficult after Belles dropped out of the FA Women’s Super League in 2018.

With the odds well and truly stacked against them, a valiant second half of the season could not prevent relegation - something which had seemed a cast iron certainty before Christmas 2018 - to the fourth tier in 2019.

The first half of the 2019-20 season saw Belles precariously placed before Butler came in.

He transformed fortunes with three straight wins in must-win games and much improved showings in the defeats which followed against much stronger opposition before Covid-19 brought an end to proceedings with the season then being declared null and void.

Belles were in second spot in the table when last season was curtailed.

Wolves, who were champions in all but name the previous season, were again the team in top spot with six wins from six and they have been deservedly promoted via upward movement.

Among the eight games Belles played was a visit to Lincoln which ended in their only reverse, but a heavy one (5-0).