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TNS 3 Belles 3

8 December 2019

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The Belles picked up a big point on the road as they drew 3-3 at third placed The New Saints in the FAWNL Division One Midlands.

Nadia Khan set the Belles on their way with a goal inside nine minutes before Taylor Davis and Kim Bebbington turned the game around before the break.

An own-goal from Erin Taylor and a fine Emily Burgin strike from distance swung the game back in the Belles’ favour, before a late sucker-punch from substitute Laura Morris saw the hosts snatch a point.

The Saints had their first opportunity inside the first minute as Jess Jennings got inside the area before looking to curl into the far corner, though she was unable to divert her shot on target.

The Belles came straight back though and they earned their first chance a minute later, with Khan’s run down the left enabling her to find space to cross low for Becca Sausby.

Sausby was unable to get a touch to it but from the follow-up, Burgin would see a shot saved by Sarah Parkes, with the home stopper set for a busy afternoon.

Khan was looking lively as she linked up with strike partner Lucy Watson in the opening stages, and it would be that partnership that almost saw the Belles unlock the opener.

Khan found Watson in space in the area, but Taylor was back to make a challenge to deny the England under-17 international a debut goal.

The Belles took the lead on nine minutes and it would be Khan that took her chance to put her side in front.

She latched on to a long ball forward from Sausby and kept her cool to round Parkes before slotting into an empty net.

Khan and Watson would link up for the Belles next chance as the visitors pushed for a quick-fire second, and the latter would see her shot fly just wide of the post from inside the box.

Bebbington had a good chance for the host’s half-way through the first period as she received a ball through from Jennings, but Kirsty Johnson was behind the ball well to save.

The Saints had a chance to level on 24 minutes when Chloe Starling brought Katie Doster down in the box, with Davis stepping up and firing into the top right-hand corner past the stretching Johnson to equalize.

10 minutes later, the turn-around was complete, with a swift counter-attack seeing the hosts earn a corner, and the resulting set-piece was met by the head of Bebbington to put the third-placed Saints ahead.

Watson was looking lively down the other end from the Belles and she was showing no signs of any difficulty in making the step up from RTC level.

She saw a shot saved by Parkes before seeing another effort blocked from a corner, with Sophie Evans firing the rebound just wide from close range under pressure.

Bebbington would have the first half’s final chance as she broke clear into the area to shoot, only to see her effort bounce off the crossbar and over.

The Belles came out of the blocks quickly after the interval and quickly set about trying to find a way to get back level.

Chloe Bethell would be the first one to test her luck, taking aim from 30 yards out, only to see Parkes across brilliantly to tip around the post.

Watson and Khan continued to build their thriving partnership and the latter would also force Parkes into a save following a flick-on from Watson.

The Belles were rewarded for their hard pressing with a little bit of luck just shy of the hour, with Charlotte Gill swinging in a free-kick which caused the TNS defence all sorts of problems.

Her set-piece took a knock off one Saints defender before coming off the back of Taylor, with the ball trickling into the corner beyond Parkes.

The Belles completed a turn-around of their own 10 minutes later, with a piece of sheer brilliance from Burgin to put her side in front.

She took aim from all of 30 yards after Gill’s shot was blocked and fired into the top corner past a helpless Parkes to hand the Belles a well-deserved lead with just over 20 minutes to go.

Watson went close to adding a fourth but was once again thwarted by Parkes who made an unbelievable double stop to deny the 16-year-old.

She then latched on to skipper Tori Thomas’s long ball, but she shot just wide of the post from just inside the box.

Parkes’ goal was leading a charmed life and she kept out Burgin once more, making a strong save from the Belles’ No.9’s free-kick, before Khan rounded Parkes again only to find the side-netting.

The sucker-punch came four minutes from time as a deep cross from out on the right by Jennings was met with a thunderous volley by second half substitute Morris to snatch a point for the Saints so late on.

Johnson was alert to the danger in the final opportunity of the afternoon as she saved well from Doster from close range, but the Belles would seal a crucial point in such difficult conditions on the Welsh border.

Whilst unfortunate not to take all three points back to South Yorkshire, the Belles can come away with their heads held high from their final Division One Midlands game of 2019, and they can now look forward to a big second half of the season.

The Belles round off 2019 with a Doncaster derby on the 3G pitch at the Keepmoat Stadium next Sunday when they host AFC Doncaster in the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA County Cup, with kick-off at 2:00pm.

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