Doncaster Rovers Belles v Leafield Athletic: Promotion-chasing Belles aim to hit the ground running

Zoey Shaw oversees training. Photo: Heather KingZoey Shaw oversees training. Photo: Heather King
Zoey Shaw oversees training. Photo: Heather King
Doncaster Rovers Belles are targeting promotion from FAWNL Division One Midlands at the first attempt.

The Belles were relegated to the fourth tier last season following a turbulent past 12 months which saw their development squad effectively become their first team.

This summer saw Belles officially join Club Doncaster.

And head coach Zoey Shaw believes her side will be ready to hit the ground running when they start their new campaign at home to Leafield Athletic at Rossington Main on Sunday.

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“There’s a few nerves starting to build up now we’re edging closer to the proper start but we’ll be ready and eager to get three points come Sunday,” said Shaw.

“The first four games of the season will probably give us the best idea of what is to come in this new league for us and build up our knowledge of the division.

“The main aim is to get points on the board early and set our stall out from the off.

“We won’t beat around the bush, our ultimate goal at the end of this season is to earn promotion out of this league.

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Doncaster Rovers Belles deserves better and so do the players that have stayed around. I have a lot of belief in my squad to get the job done.”

Shaw oversaw the side’s transition into senior football last year, having just a couple weeks to try and scramble a squad together that would be ready for the start of the season.

Despite an upturn in form following the turn of the year, the Belles were relegated from the FAWNL Northern Premier Division on the final day of the campaign.

Now with a full pre-season schedule under their belts, Shaw believes the mix of last year’s youth and the addition of experience can stand them in good stead this term.

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“Personally, last season I was really challenged as a coach,” said Shaw.

“The side we had last year really should’ve been playing development football rather than playing in the first team, but they embraced the challenge and after a slow start we finished off really well.

“This season we have a real plan in place with a proper pre-season, we’ve recruited well, I’m currently working towards my A Licence, so we’re already a massive step ahead of where we were this time last year.

“We can really get to grips with things from the start whereas last season we didn’t have any of that.

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“Collectively we’re already well ahead of ourselves, so those experienced players that come in to add to the youngsters from last year are massive for us.”

The Belles will continue to play the vast majority of their fixtures at Rossington Main’s Oxford Street ground and Shaw believes the fans’ support will play an important role.

“We had great support playing down at Rossington last season,” she said. “It’s a nice ground and there’s a real buzz about it when you have a good crowd there, it gives the players a boost.

“The message goes out to everyone that if they want to see the Belles develop then come down and show your support and help make this season a memorable one.”