Doncaster Rovers Belles progressed to Round Five of the FA Women’s Cup following a hard-fought win over Bradford City.
On a tough pitch at AFC Thackley, Glen Harris’ side met the in form Bantams who were flying high in the FA WPL.
It was the hosts who started brightly, with former Belles forward Lucy Sowerby looking lively. Twice she found herself in good positions, but on both occasions she was thwarted by the linesman’s flag.
The pitch was said to be a “leveller” by Harris, and it certainly seemed to thwart the Belles usual passing game and prevented the visitors from carving out any real chances.
The main opportunities in the first 20 minutes came from set plays, with Leandra Little seeing two headers hacked clear from a corner before Emily Roberts’ volley was blocked in the area and appeals for handball were waved away.
After half an hour the visitors’ dominance began to show. After a foul on the edge of the area, Sue Smith had an opportunity from a free-kick but, despite beating the wall, her effort was held by Simpon. Minutes later a cross from Lipka was nodded down by Sweetman-Kirk for Emily Roberts, whose effort cleared the bar.
Just as it looked as if the sides would go in goalless at the break, the Belles struck. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk picked up the ball 25 yards out and, after picking her spot, fired an unstoppable effort past Simpon into the corner of the goal.
It was nothing less than the Belles deserved in a half where, despite a lack of chances, they had dominated. Harris’ side could have even doubled their lead before the interval as two further chances presented themselves.
First, Sophie Barker flashed a tempting cross across the face of goal which was begging for a touch, before Sweetman-Kirk tested the reflexes of Simpon shortly after with another long range effort. The ‘keeper triumphed this time however, and tipped her effort wide.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, as Bradford pushed forward but struggled to create any meaningful chances.
As the game reached the hour mark both sets of fans sensed that the game was entering a pivotal stage with the next goal surely vital, and the decibel levels increased.
A second goal came with 15 minutes remaining, and again it went to the Belles. Smith got a head on Reanne Thomas’ cross and, after deflecting off both the crossbar and the goalkeeper, it found the back of the net.
With nothing to lose Bradford threw everyone forward and had their reward with eight minutes remaining. A corner fell to the back post, where an unmarked Bantams defender was able to smash the ball post Hobbs.
Despite some late pressure from the hosts, the Belles defended admirably and were able to secure their place in the fifth round of the FA Women’s Cup.
The draw for the fifth round will be made on Monday lunchtime, with the Belles able to draw the following teams: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Notts County, Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC, Coventry City, Watford Ladies.