Caitlin Gunnell and Libby Challinor’s doubles helped Doncaster Belles’ under-16s secure the Division One runners-up spot, writes Marie Gibb.
Facing Aston Swallownest in the final game of their Sheffield & Hallamshire Girls County League, the Belles started brightly and pressed from the off.
Their early efforts were rewarded when a superb Libby Challinor free kick found the top left hand corner of the Aston net for a 15th minute lead.
However, the direction of the game changed five minutes later when Aston were awarded a clear penalty following a clumsy challenge in the box. Their well-executed shot restored parity for the hosts.
The Belles arguably did not play their best football upto the break and poor concentration was eventually punished by Aston who fired themselves into a 2-1 lead.
During the interval, team tactics saw Doncaster double up defensively on Aston’s talented striker to try and stem the threat the home side posed in the final third.
And that proved to be a gamble which ultimately paid off as the Belles kept their opponents at bay and soon levelled proceedings when a huge goalkick found a quick-thinking Gunnell who struck a beautiful lob for 2-2.
The Belles then grew in confidence as Jade Smedley, Kaitlyn Doncaster - who struck the Aston post - and Kelly Griffiths all showed good skill on the ball and were keen to feed their strikers at every possible opportunity.
Doncaster opted for a more attacking formation - another decision which helped the visitors push on and soon net their third goal.
The strike came following good play from Smedley who lofted in a ball into the box and Challinor rose magnificently to power home a header for her second of the game.
Gunnell followed up with her brace when Abby Freeman delivered a ball into the Belles marksman and she lobbed the goalkeeper for 4-2 in the 75th minute.
That proved to be the final action of the league season for the Belles’ under-16s as they secured their runners-up spot.
The team have a short break before they face league champions Handsworth Juniors in the SHGCL Cup on April 5.