WSL - Week 16 Round-Up: Belles down and Sheffield into fifth

There was no joy for the ailing teams in WSL this weekend.

WSL - Week 16 Round-Up: Belles down and Sheffield into fifth
Clarke's stunning strike was enough to give Notts the edge over the Belles

In another weekend of muted WSL action, Doncaster Belles confirmed their relegation in their final home game of the season as Watford all but condemned themselves to finishing bottom of WSL 2.

Doncaster Belles 1-2 Notts County

Knowing that nothing less than three big results from their last three games would do the Belles got off to the perfect start and took the lead for the fourth time this season as Carla Humphrey evaded Jade Moore’s last ditch tackle to roll the ball under Megan Walsh. But once again for the Belles, the lead was short-lived and Notts equalised through Aileen Whelan finished into the open net after Anna Moorhouse had superbly denied Moore.

Heads began to hang low at the Keepmoat as the déjà vu set in, and Notts grabbed a quick-fire second to take the lead three minutes after equalising, and not for the first time this year the Belles were undone by a stunner as Jess Clarke cut in and perfectly curled one past Moorhouse.

The game slowed down after the restart, neither side really able to find a rhythm, Walsh was called into action to save a couple of tame efforts fired straight at her and Rachel Williams’ with a goal disallowed for a handball but other than that the game lulled to the whistle. The Belles went out with a whimper rather than a bang, the hosts unable to find any last-minute magic with a stoppage time corner.

The result sees the Belles officially relegated, their fate seemingly sealed long ago as Notts attempt to shrug off their sub-par season, notching their first away win of the year to put distance between themselves and [the now safe] Reading and Sunderland.

WSL 1 table as it stands (credit: FA WSL)
WSL 1 table as it stands (credit: FA WSL)

Watford 1-3 Sheffield

The hosts took the lead just two minutes into the game after Sophie Jones was taken down inside of the home box and captain, Carla Ward converted the resulting spot kick. Following a miserable season the Golden Girls have routinely found themselves behind in games but once again showed good character to respond well and not just let their heads drop. The game opened up and Watford enjoyed a spell of good possession, keeping the visiting defence on its’ toes before Sheffield began to work the hosts once again.

The game continued in the same fashion into the second-half as Ward smashed her effort against the crossbar from ten yards just after the restart before the hosts equalised through Phoebe Read. Taking advantage of some bad defending from the visitors Read picked the ball up just inside the area before taking aim striking low into the bottom corner. Again the pendulum began to swing between the two as Sheffield refused two good chances to regain the lead, first Jones could only clip the bar with her looping header before Jodie Michalska completely missed the target with the goal gaping.

The missed opportunities mattered not however as the visitors took the advantage with just under twenty minutes left, with Lucy Gillett well out to chase down the ball she was never favourite to reach it before Michalska and it was just for the striker to put the ball past the advancing 'keeper. The gloss was put on ten minutes from time as Sophie Jones finally got her goal with a brilliant solo effort, weaving through the defence to find space in the box before firing low past a helpless Gillett.

Even Sherry McCue's stoppage time dismissal for what appeared to be a studs up challenge couldn’t take the shine off of the day for Sheffield as they leapfrog the Bees into fifth. With just two games left to play and six points separating them and ninth placed Oxford, Watford will need to come up with something very special to overcome the 15 goal disadvantage and not finish dead last.

FA WSL 2 table as it stands
WSL 2 table as it stands (credit: FA WSL)