COMMENT: In tune Belles lay foundations

Doncaster Belles.
Doncaster Belles.

BELLES’ 2-0 victory at Liverpool on the final day of the FA Women’s Super League season was worthy of celebration - at least in the short term.

First and foremost it meant Doncaster avoided the wooden spoon for a second successive season; no mean feat when Belles are the poor relations of a division packed with Premier League powerhouses.

It also capped a fine end to the campaign, one that bodes well for what promises to be an even tougher third season in the FA WSL.

Between now and next summer, however, attention will switch to the long term question of how to keep one of the most famous names in women’s football in the elite division. It won’t be easy.

Next season will see the introduction of promotion and relegation between the Super League and Premier League for the first time - with cash-rich Manchester City, and strong Leeds United and Sunderland sides set to be knocking on the FA WSL door.

But at least Belles have laid the foundations for what will be a testing campaign.

After losing 11 of their opening 13 games in all competitions, a home victory against Lincoln in late August transformed the Belles’ fortunes.

They finally looked like a side that believed in themselves, and began to play with purpose and vigour.

A shoot-on-sight philosophy also paid dividends as the Super League’s lowest scorers suddenly found their form in front of goal.

Hard earned draws against Everton and Bristol, gallant in defeat at champions Arsenal and efficient winners at Liverpool; Belles showed they have the ability and nouse to at least hold their own at this level.

Most promising was the form of young strike duo Millie Bright and Auckley lass Jess Sigsworth, the pair’s relentless work rate and physicality proving a real headache for some of England’s best defenders.

Their development, as well as the team’s massive improvement, would suggest Doncaster Belles are coming of age in the Super League.

Next season they will be aided by the return to fitness of England star Sue Smith, who could play a key role in encouraging some big names to join Doncaster over the winter.

How the club recruit during the off-season might just determine their fate in the long term - and keeping Doncaster in the Super League beyond 2013 would really be worth celebrating.