The Belles rounded off 2019 with a win as they overcame stern opposition in AFC Doncaster in the third round of the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA County Cup on Sunday.
Nadia Khan’s ninth minute effort was all the Belles needed to seal progression through to the next stage of the local cup competition, though it perhaps should’ve been more in blustery conditions at the Keepmoat Stadium’s 3G pitch.
The woodwork was hit three times by Lily Wishart alone during the game, with Tori Thomas also striking a post, though visiting stopper Sophie Brown also proved difficult for the Belles to beat, but ultimately it would be the Belles who claimed town bragging rights.
It was the visitors who got forward first, with Gemma Harte looking to pull the ball across goal; her ball in was a dangerous one but no one in luminous yellow was able to get a definitive touch.
Wishart went close down the other end as she looked to lob the ball over Brown, only for the ball to get caught in the wind and end up in the arms of the AFC Doncaster goalkeeper.
The Belles took the lead on nine minutes, with Wishart cutting inside on to her left foot to shoot, only for her effort to bounce away off the post.
Khan was quickest to the rebound ever, beating Brown to the ball to tap into an empty net and hand the Belles an early advantage.
Brown was being kept in the opening stages and she was on hand to deny Chloe Bethell a goal 10 minutes later, with the Belles’ No.8 cutting inside to shoot, only for Brown to get down well to make a save.
Khan was in the mood to add to her tally and she broke through into the area in search of her second goal, only to be thwarted by the on-rushing Brown once more.
Two minutes later Brown would be called into action once again with the lively Wishart looking to get on the scoresheet for the first time this season, though the visiting stopper held her effort well.
The visitors almost got back into the game with two efforts in quick succession from Jessica Andrew, firstly seeing an effort deflected wide across goal, before diverting her next shot from Natalie Tomkins’ corner just past the post.
Charlotte Gill was next to go close for the Belles as she fired over from close range following a cross in from the left-hand side by the returning Kirsty Smith.
Wishart hit the woodwork for a second time in the first half as she took aim from the edge of the area, only for her effort to come crashing away off the crossbar, before Harte fired one over the bar down the other end following another Tomkins corner.
After the break, the Belles continued to search for the all-important second goal, with Brown alert to divert Bethell’s low cross away from any danger.
Brown was being kept as busy as ever with Gill next to test her as she looked to score with a free-kick from a tight angle, only to see the AFC Doncaster number one beat the ball away.
Thomas then had Brown stranded as she took aim from 20 yards out after getting into space, though her shot struck the outside of the post and went behind with the goalkeeper’s feet firmly planted.
The woodwork was struck for a fourth time with Khan fizzing a ball across the six-yard box for Wishart who once more found the crossbar from close range.
Bethell went close with a header late on for the Belles, whilst the visitors also piled pressure as the clock ticked towards full-time, but the Belles held on for the win and they progress through to the last eight of the County Cup.
The Belles are without a game now until the New Year, with their first game of 2020 to come in the form of a FAWNL Division One Midlands game away at Leafield Athletic on Sunday January 12.