Hannah McWilliams’ second half goal got Belles 2021/22 FAWNL Division One Midlands league campaign off to a winning start with a 1-0 against Burton Albion ladies.
Belles had the best of the possession and the chances in their opening game of the new season, but Burton Albion posed a threat on the break. The visitors should probably have come away with a more comfortable score line following up McWilliams’ opener with Nadia Khan and Lilly Harrison both hitting the woodwork.
They needed a slice of luck late on, however, at Burton hit the crossbar with a header from a corner kick late on.
Andy Butler named a strong side with centre back Charlotte Dinsdale recovered from the knock which kept her out of the side’s final pre-season match against Leeds United, newly appointed captain Jess Andrew was back in her favoured centre midfield position.
The home side started the brighter creating a few half-chances and earning a string of corners but their only effort on target was a 20 yard, looping header which was easily dealt with by Ellie Sharpe.
With 10 minutes played, Belles began to dictate things through the middle and Hannah McWilliams, Jess Andrew and Jasmine Saxton all had shots blocked in quick succession before the latter scooped a chance over the bar from close range after getting on the end of Sophie Bell’s cross from the right.
Andrew had the visitors first shot on target mid-way through the first half, powerful running by the skipper saw the pitch open up for her, it was a well hit right-footed effort but the Brewers’ keeper was able to collect.
While most of the half was played in the home side’s half, Burton Albion had plenty of pace on the break and offered a threat down the wings throughout the opening 45.
But the final bit of quality was lacking for both sides. Burton’s No.20 sent a golden opportunity from a free kick straight out of play, while both Dinsdale and Andrew were unable to take advantage of free headers in the centre of the opposition box.
Both keepers made saves late in the half.
Burton’s No.17 bundled her way through the Belles defence late in the half, but her shot took a deflection which made it comfortable for Sharpe while Belles had their best chance right on half-time.
Saxton showed strength and pace to drive along the by-line and good awareness to pick out Sophie Scargill with the cut-back but the No.26 was only able to toe it on target and it was a simple save for the Brewer’s keeper.
A fast start for both teams saw Brewers No.7 get in behind early but was thwarted by good defending from Freya Rattenbury while Khan’s paced caused the home side some early problems with her and Saxton linking up well to get beyond the defence but with neither able to turn good positions into shots.
Andrew had Belles first real chance, the visitors had pinned the Brewers back but the skipper was unable to turn Sophie Bell’s cross in from close range but Andrew turned provider three minutes later when an excellent in-swinging delivery from a corner kick which was nodded in by McWilliams at the back post.
That was to be the goal-scorers final act in the game as she was replaced by Lauren Breen.
Breen added plenty of tenacity upfront and Belles were able to fashion another chance soon after – Khan got into a pocket of space and attempted to dink the keeper, it was a delightful effort that was denied by the crossbar.
Despite the visitors’ dominance, Brewers’ No.10 should have capitalised when she went through one-on-one with Sharpe. She took it around the keeper, but her touch was too heavy and the Belles defence cleared their lines.
Belles kept pushing for a second Bell’s cross from the right was nudged wide by Price, Trevillion’s cross from the left was inches from being toed in by Scargill while Saxton had looked set to tap into an empty net but was denied by the assistant referee’s flag.
Lily Harrison could have doubled the lead with her first touch of the game, a brilliant, curved run from the striker kept her well onside but she side-footed effort hit the upright and the loose ball was cleared.
The home side continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack. There was an important intervention from Rattenbury to prevent a certain goal at the expense of a corner, while the set-piece presented the best chance of the game for Burton who hit the bar with the header.
Scargill forced the keeper into a save with a glancing header from Bell’s delivery and the keeper was needed again in the final minute when Price unleashed one from 20 yards.