With the season still half-asleep following last weekend's cup final and the UWCL mid-week matches the Doncaster Belles were in action twice over week 15, after suffering a heavy defeat to Arsenal they could do nothing about the three superb goals from Liverpool at the end of the week.
Doncaster Belles 0-5 Arsenal
In their first of two matches this week, the Belles welcomed Arsenal back to the Keepmoat, 138 days after their original postponement, the pitch had thoroughly dried out. In another match that was very much do or die, the Belles didn’t.
Arsenal took an early lead through Dan Carter, ten minutes after the attacker had seen a certain goal cleared off of the line by Leandra Little, she made no mistake, poking home at the back post. With less than fifteen minutes on the clock the hosts were already behind the eight ball and forced to weather a veritable storm from the Gunners.
Whether Emma Mitchell’s deflected effort at a corner, Katie McCabe’s snapshot, Jordan Nobbs’ wide header or Mitchell’s driven effort at yet another corner, the onslaught didn’t stop as the visitors attacked in waves. Nicola Hobbs worked to the max once again this year.
Able to hold the Gunners off to half-time, the Belles went forward intermittently as Carla Humphrey possessed a constant threat going forward but as has been endemic all season, the final product just wasn’t there and Sari van Veenendaal remained untroubled. The pressure was back on after the restart and once more the hosts were forced to repel the persistent Arsenal attack.
But there was little the tiring hosts could do when Pedro Martinez Losa went to his bench and introduced Kelly Smith and Natalia into the game and it took Natalia just three minutes to make it 2-0. With the hosts hopefully going up for a corner, they found themselves overcommitted and out of place when Arsenal hit them on the counter, Alex Scott’s looped cross neatly headed home by the Spanish substitute.
Once more the Belles did well to keep Arsenal out, but with the likes of Leah Williamson and Nobbs both trying their hand from distance it was only a matter of time until the visitors made it three. The respectable scoreline blasted to pieces as the Belles were hit for three late goals in six minutes.
Natalia the first to seal a brace after getting her shot away under challenge, after a neat one-two between Smith and Nobbs before Carter made it 4-0 just thre minutes later; after scooping up Chloe Kelly’s low cross it was a simple finish from Carter for her brace. All that was left was for Smith to put the cherry on top with a glorious 30-yard chip to beat a forlorn Hobbs in the 90th minute.
The scoreline yet another harsh one, the Belles with some fine attacking football late in the game but all just too little too late.
Doncaster Belles 1-3 Liverpool
Bouncing back ball well from their midweek defeat the Belles took an early lead – just the third time they’ve lead this year – after Rhiannon Roberts connected beautifully with Emily Simpkins’ lofted free kick. The hosts once again settling into a defensive set-up doing well to keep the rampaging Red out, Scott Rogers’ side hungry to restore parity.
The visitors ramped up the pressure as the hosts rode out their luck with the ball live in the box, bouncing from player to player as yellow shirts frantically blocked effort after effort. Anna Moorhouse was determined to make a statement in her first start of the year, keeping the Reds out at every turn but there was little she could do when Caroline Weir let fly from outside the area, a stunning effort from the Scottish international.
As the game opened up, it looked for all the world like the two would be going in at the break level but Weir had other thoughts in mind as she ripped yet another sublime effort from distance. Even better than the first, with her left foot arced into the top corner, the Belles undone by two sensational goals, the second right on half-time.
After the break Liverpool were on the offensive and easily could have been 3-1 up, after Moorhouse did well to keep Shanice van de Sanden out the ball was worked back to Ashley Hodson who somehow put the ball wide from two yards. Natasha Harding benefiting from another parried van de Sanden effort, though the Welsh international could only put her follow up wide too.
Even with Liverpool out for blood the Belles stood up well put in one of their best defensive performances of the season, Moorhouse unlucky to be turning around to pick the ball out of the net once again. Just as she had in Widnes, Harding stamped her mark on the game, coming onto the loose ball she dug her shot out and let fly into the far corner, no backlift from Harding and no hope for the Belles.
Although still not officially relegated it would take a near-miracle for the Belles to avoid finishing bottom.