Draw sees Ladies stay top

by Adam Capper

Furness scores superb equaliser to earn point at Doncaster.

Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 Sunderland Ladies 1

Sunderland Ladies maintained their status at the top of FA WSL 2 with a 1-1 draw at Doncaster Rovers Belles. 

Though the Lady Black Cats lost their 100% league record, they kept second-placed Doncaster at arms length with both clubs sitting four and six points clear of the chasing pack respectively. 

Doncaster took the lead through former England international Sue Smith before a spectacular solo goal from Rachel Furness levelled the match going into the break. 

Sunderland started the game slowly and Doncaster striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk registered two shots on target in the first minute, both easily gathered by Rachael Laws. 

Rebekah Bass, deployed on the left-hand side of a front three, caused the hosts problems as she used her pace to get in behind, though she couldn’t find the final ball in the opening stages. 

With 13 minutes played the deadlock was broken; a Sunderland free-kick out wide was missed by the Doncaster keeper but Furness could only hit the post with her header. 

Doncaster broke with pace and Smith was found in space on the right wing before running into the six-yard box and smashing the ball in off the post from an almost impossible angle.

The Belles maintained good pressure and Sweetman-Kirk missed several good chances, the best of which saw Laws produce a stunning save as the forward raced through one-on-one. 

Just after the half-hour mark Furness levelled the game with a truly remarkable goal. The Northern Ireland international collected the ball deep in her own half before speeding away from Smith. 

As Furness approached the penalty area, she easily rode a challenge before unleashing a powerful strike which flew into the top corner. 

The visitors almost went in to half time in front but Bass couldn’t beat Doncaster keeper Nicola Hobbs when the winger found herself alone in the box. 

The second half was a much quieter affair as high temperatures and humidity in Yorkshire took their toll on the players. 

Tireless work from Victoria Greenwell kept Smith at bay while Steph Bannon and Gemma Wilson proved a strong partnership in the centre of defence. 

The best chance of the second period came five minutes from time when Ramshaw was fed by Sophie Williams, but the forward couldn’t get a shot away when under pressure inside the area. 

The hosts provided a late flurry but vital challenges from Wilson and Laws, alongside commanding work from the latter, saw Sunderland hang on for a point.

The point sees Sunderland maintain a two-point cushion over Doncaster at the top of the FA WSL 2 table with the Belles still facing a trip to Wearside. 

The Lady Black Cats are back in action next weekend when Oxford United Women visit the Hetton Centre on Sunday 3rd August, (KO 11.30am).

Sunderland Ladies: Laws, Beer, Greenwell, Wilson, Bannon (c), Furness, McDougall, Ramshaw, Bass (McHugh), Kelly (Briggs), Williams. 

Subs not used: Alderson, Sharp.