Jess Andrew scored a stoppage-time equaliser on her competitive debut for the Belles as the 2020/21 campaign opened with a thrilling 2-2 draw at Boldmere.
All four goals came in the second period after a tight opening 45 minutes, with Andy Butler’s girls having to battle back from 2-0 down.
Quickfire goals from Laura Cooper and Jess Lundie, both quick counter-attacking goals after 57 and 60 minutes respectively, looked to have put the home side in control.
But the Belles showed plenty of battling spirit to match their undoubted quality. Jasmine Saxton started the fightback with a poacher’s finish, capitalising on uncertainty at the back, before delivering the cross for Andrew to slot home the leveller nine minutes into stoppage time.
The first half was a very even affair, with Lily Harrison heading the Belles best early chance wide after eight minutes.
Hannah McWilliams was squeezed out from having a shot after 33 minutes after a good move down the right from Nadia Khan and Saxton.
There was a late flurry of activity as the match reached the break. Charlotte Dinsdale will have felt she should have tested home goalkeeper Shannon Turner more with a central free-kick from 30-yards out - her low effort got past the wall but was too close to the Boldmere No.1 to test her.
Saxton saw a low shot blocked after Harrison flicked on an Izzy Trevillion free-kick, while Sophie Scargill - wearing the captain’s armband in the enforced absence of Kirsty Smith - lifted an effort wide after Becca Sausby’s free-kick was not fully cleared.
Ellie Sharpe was rarely tested in the opening half, dealing well with a number of long-range shots.
All the goals came in a dramatic second period, though the Belles again started brightly - with Dinsdale almost forcing the ball home from a free-kick after 48 minutes.
The match was again end to end, with Sharpe having to be out quickly to smother an effort from Millie Kirk.
Sausby saw an effort blocked behind and Dinsdale again saw an effort poked over before the Belles were hit by a sucker-punch when a quick counter down the right led to Cooper smashing a powerful effort past Sharpe which left the visiting No.1 with no chance.
Three minutes later Boldmere doubled their advantage with a near identical goal, although this time the effort from Lundie was more of a placed finish.
That knocked the stuffing out of the Belles for a brief period, and the match was disrupted when home player Holly Rogers looked to pull a hamstring while trying to kick the ball - prompting a long delay in proceedings while the medical staff of both clubs tended to her. Eventually Steph Weston was sent on to replace her.
Butler had switched things around a bit just before the goals, bringing on Jenna McGee and Chloe Dean for their debuts in place of McWilliams and Harrison.
And McGee was at the centre of a lot of the Belles’ attacking moves, playing a nice pass through for Saxton which was blocked.
A minute later Saxton was back in the thick of things, taking advantage of the home keeper and a defender leaving the ball for each other to stab the ball home and give the Belles hope.
The match was in the balance now, with both sides having opportunities to get the fourth goal of the game.
Scargill again lifted an effort just over, while Samantha White and Millie Kirk had efforts for the home side.
The Belles final change of the game saw Phoebe Sneddon sent on for Khan, a switch that allowed Andrew to move further up the pitch into a more attacking role.
And that proved crucial deep in stoppage time - more than 10 minutes were played after the 90 - when Andrew timed her run into the box to perfection to slot home Saxton’s cross much to the delight of the travelling fans.
The Belles could have claimed all three points of the game when Dinsdale headed just-over from Andrew’s free-kick, but in the end they headed north with confidence high after a battling performance.