Sue Smith started her first game in 15 months for Doncaster Rovers Belles against Everton which saw Nikita Parris, Vicky Jones and an injury time Toni Duggan penalty cancel out an opening Beth England strike.
The game saw 301 fans descend on to the Keepmoat Stadium for the Continental Cup clash - with supporters holding protests earlier in Doncaster’s Frenchgate Centre against the FA’s decision to relegate the Belles next season.
The FA - who were today taking the FA Cup trophy on a tour across the borough ready for the cup final on Saturday - are still refusing to comment about the decision until its ‘final phase’ is complete, which the Free Press exclusively revealed last week is likely to be at the end of this month.
Belles, who have appealed the decision, had a chance in the second minute of the game when Millie Bright flashed an effort inches past Elizabeth Durack’s post.
England struck the bar as Sigsworth later fired an effort over the bar and Everton’s Toni Duggan saw her free-kick suffer the same fate from 20 yards out.
The hosts were enjoying the better spells of possession and made their pressure count in the 36th minute when Jess Sigsworth powered forward and slipped in England who guided the ball into the bottom corner.
However, Everton responded instantly with a sublime curling effort from Parris which lobbed Nicola Hobbs for 1-1.
Hobbs was called into action to expertly tip over a strike in the 44th minute signalling the last real chance of the half.
Smith nearly had a fairytale start to her Belles 2013 campaign when she found space in the area but fired down the throat of Durack in the 46th minute.
Ashleigh Mills and Sigsworth also had chances to put the Belles further ahead, however, Everton took their opportunities as Jones struck a piledriver past Hobbs for 2-1.
Belles’ boss John Buckley then didn’t have the best of birthday presents when his side were penalised in injury time for a pull back for an Everton penalty which was converted confidently by Duggan for 3-1.