Doncaster Rovers Belles 1-4 Sunderland Ladies
Sunderland Ladies recorded a seismic victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles to boost their chances of survival in the FA Women’s Super League One at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Lady Black Cats began the game on the front foot but went behind inside 15 minutes when Mayumi Pacheco capitalised on an error.
Belles grew in confidence and stature as the first period wore on but Beth Mead looked lively throughout and that gave Sunderland continued hope.
Tori Williams stabbed the ball home on 34 minutes to level the game against the run of play before Abby Holmes’ deflected effort flew past Nicola Hobbs as the match turned on its head in five dramatic minutes.
A spirited Belles side returned in the second period but the Lasses dealt with their onslaught well and while Mead was denied from the penalty spot in the 68th minute, Kelly McDougall made amends a minute later.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Maddie Hill sealed victory with a speculative strike as the Lady Black Cats earned a precious three points.
Having had a month to on stew on what was a physically challenging five matches in July, Sunderland Ladies travelled to Doncaster refreshed and recharged.
With both sides keen to earn a huge three points in the race for survival in the FA Women’s Super League One, the Lady Black Cats arrived at the Keepmoat Stadium optimistic that they could deal a tidal blow to Belles’ chances and in the same notion hand themselves a major boost.
And so it begun.
The Lady Black Cats raced out the blocks, spearheaded by Mead whose pace and trickery left Belles chasing shadows in the opening stages.
Williams’ early ball into Mead’s path gave the forward her first glimpse of goal before the striker sent an instinctive ball flashing across the face of goal.
The hosts composed themselves and worked their way back into the game with a five minute spell of possession, despite never really threatening.
With 15 minutes on the clock the pendulum swung in Belles' favour, Rachael Laws failed to deal with the ball as it rebounded off the crossbar and that gifted full-back Pacheco an easy finish from close range.
Emma Coates’ side continued to dominate the general ebb and flow of the game while Sunderland were forced to feed on scraps as they waited for their perfect moment to pounce.
And pounce they did…
Two goals in five excellent minutes saw the Lasses head into the break with the upper hand as Sunderland’s full-backs decided to join Pacheco and get on the scoresheet.
Firstly, Stephanie Roche picked out Mead, who executed a sublime piece of skill to breeze her way into the box, Williams then took over and somehow stabbed her effort underneath Hobbs.
But the Lasses weren’t finished there and as the clocked ticked into the 39th minute, Holmes came inside off the left flank, opted to shoot, and the ball deflected past Hobbs and into the back of the net.
Unsurprisingly Belles raced out the traps in the second period and quickly penned the Lasses deep into their own half as they searched for a priceless route back into the game.
Samantha Tierney sent a thunderous strike whistling over the crossbar before further intense Belles pressure saw Sunderland skipper Steph Bannon nervously head back towards her own goal.
The Lasses escaped though and built up a head of steam, Mead’s tireless efforts helped her get the better of Leandra Little but her attempt shaved the outside of the post.
Belles continued to battle away, but with 68 minutes on the clock Sunderland were awarded a penalty for what appeared to be handball. Mead stepped up but Hobbs made a splendid save to turn the ball round the post for a corner.
From the resultant set-piece, the Lasses made amends and clinched an invaluable two-goal cushion as McDougall arrowed her strike into the roof of the net.
It was an mesmeric lead and that dented a major hole in Belles’ confidence as Hill rounded off the scoring in the closing stages with a snap shot to extend the visitors lead further and seal a priceless three points.
The race continues...
Sunderland Ladies starting XI: Laws, Williams, Bannon, Sharp, Holmes, McDougall, Staniforth, Ramshaw (Kelly,87), Joice (Brown, 71) Roche (Hill, 78), Mead
Unused subs: Olsen, Beer, Potts, Leon