After playing their games in hand, the Belles have found themselves a little off the pace as Everton have one hand on the WSL 2 Spring Series title.
Still adjusting to life in WSL, recently promoted Brighton were once again left to lean on experienced ‘keeper, Emma Byrne, the Irish international arguably the signing of the winter in WSL 2.
Whilst the Belles dominated the possession and chances, the team down from WSL 1 keen to show their class on the pitch, they simply could not find a way past Byrne, the former-Gunner happy to deny their best efforts. Emily Simpkins, Christie Murray, Kirsty Hanson all saw their chances well saved by Byrne before the keeper continued with her heroics to refuse Courtney Sweetman-Kirk from the spot just before the hour.
The hosts continued to frustrate their visitors, seeing a handful of chances well dealt with by the visiting defence and Nicky Davies in the Belles goal.
Gabby George’s twelfth minute header at home to the Wildcats was all to separate the two teams that came agonisingly close to promotion last year, Everton able to edge their visitors as they had in 2016.
Rachael Laws was kept busy throughout, Simone Magill and Claudia Walker keen to work the former Sunderland ‘keeper, but she was equal to the Blue Girls’ efforts. Conversely Kirstie Levell was having a quieter afternoon, her first big save coming around the hour to deny Zoe Ness before keeping Rachel Lee out five minutes later. The Wildcats denied a late, late equaliser when Sarah Wilson turned a Beth Hepple free kick in before the goal was chalked off for offside.
Doncaster Belles 2-1 Aston Villa
Hanson continued to prove herself as a shrewd signing for the Belles as the hosts dominated the first-half at the Keepmoat, the Scottish international the one to break the deadlock mid-way through the first-half from inside the box. The advantage doubled when she turned creator five minutes before the break to tee up Sweetman-Kirk, the striker denied a brace by Chloe Beattie in the last knockings. More pressure after the break saw Sweetman-Kirk cannon the woodwork before Davies was called into action to deny Mollie Rouse and Kerri Welsh.
Maddy Cusack was able to pull one back with little more than ten minutes left when she was let in by an error from Davies, the ‘keeper atoning with a super save to deny Rouse an equaliser, the match ending with Hanson and Murray both failing to convert to secure the win. The result sees Villa’s slim hopes of finishing at the top of the pile dissipate, though like the Belles they can aim for second.
Everton 4-0 Watford
Gunning for top-spot, Everton put on a show on a rare outing at Goodison Park, the 821 fans in attendance treated to sterling attacking football from the Blue Girls as they ran riot against a mixed Watford side.
Dominant from the off, Georgia Brougham was a livewire for her side, coming close early on when she tested out Jo Fletcher with a deft nod; the ‘keeper able to turn her effort wide before she was bested by a looped header from Brougham. Still improving under Keith Boanas, the Golden Girls nearly found an instant response, Levell alert to clear Danielle Puddefoot’s headed chance.
Needing to hit the front foot early after the break, Watford were dealt a body blow when former Notts County attacker Aileen Whelan netted her first for the Toffees, her curler from the edge of the area too much for Fletcher. The chances continued to flow for both, the hosts having the better of it before Olivia Chance made it three, her deflected effort ten minutes from time enough to confirm the win. However, there was still time for Magill to bag her fifth of the season, tucking the ball home from close range.
With one left to play, the win takes Everton three points clear of their nearest challengers, their goal difference far healthier, the one-off Spring Series silverware surely heading to Widnes. For Watford the match was another for Boanas to build-on, the Spring Series the perfect dry-run for the former Estonia boss.