Doncaster Rovers Belles’ Development squad left Durham with nothing to show for their efforts following a spirited performance in a 2-1 defeat, writes Mark Donnelly.
The visitors made four changes from last week’s defeat to Aston Villa as Naomi Chadwick, Millie Bright, Emma Johnson and Ashleigh Mills made way for Emma Higgins, Bethany England, Jess Sigsworth and Cauren Webb.
England and Sigsworth, along with Lauren Cresswell, made up the Belles’ three designated first team players for the trip to face Durham WFC Reserves.
After a lively opening few minutes, the Belles threatened first when Bartup was tripped on the edge of the area. Cresswell lined up the resulting free-kick but the home goalkeeper was equal to it.
Sigsworth was causing numerous problems for the Durham defence, and she twice whipped in teasing crosses which Bartup was inches away from connecting with as she slid in at the far post.
It took 25 minutes for the first goal to come, and it went to the hosts. Becky Hanratty beat Webb and forced her way into the area. Megan Govier got a hand to her powerful twelve yard shot, but was unable to prevent it from hitting the back of the net.
Fifteen minutes later, Durham extended their lead. It was a near carbon copy of the first, as Hanratty beat her marker and advanced down the left flank. She cut inside and, although Govier got a hand to it, she doubled hers and Durham’s tally for the afternoon.
The Belles came out fighting at the beginning of the second half and halved the deficit within five minutes of the restart. Sigsworth broke away down the left before advancing into the area. Her initial shot hit the post before she calmly tucked home the rebound from close range.
Following this goal, the visitors began an assault on the home goal. Bartup was tormenter in chief as she smashed a long range effort off the underside of the bar which, despite loud claims from the travelling support, was deemed to have not crossed the line.
Moments later the midfielder spotted the ‘keeper off her line and her delicate chip was only inches wide of the far post.
Durham were defending well and limiting the Belles to only a few opportunities following the two close scares. The visitors were still determined to force an equaliser, however, and Bartup again came close.
A good run down the left from the impressive Sigsworth resulted in a cross which found Bartup unmarked. Her first time effort cannoned back off the bar and fell badly for the lurking England who struggled to make contact before Durham cleared.
As the game ticked into its final minutes, the Belles were still trying to find that elusive second goal.
Durham, however, were remaining strong at the back and threatening on the counter attack. Only a timely interception from Johnson stopped them from breaking clean through on goal. Govier then had to tip a long range effort over the bar late on as Durham claimed their first win in the Development League Cup.
The Belles will be determined to bounce back on Thursday night when they travel to Collingham Town to take on Notts County Ladies (7.30pm).