A brace from Nadia Khan and a goal from Jasmine Saxton saw the Belles come back from a goal down to see off Solihull Moors and cement second place in the FA WNL Division One Midlands.
Andy Butler made one change to the side that drew with Long Eaton in the last league game three weeks ago. Lindsey Tugby came in for Charlotte Dinsdale who dropped to the bench, and the Belles welcomed back striker Sophie Brown to the squad after a year away.
The Belles were looking to seek a first away win in the league since the end of January, but from the off had to deal with a swift Moors forward line, and it was the hosts who had the first chance after 5 minutes with a well-struck shot that sailed just past the post. Belles’ first opportunity came on 17 minutes when Lauren Breen struck a powerful 20 yard free-kick just over the bar.
In a tight match, the Moors’ quick long ball style continued to cause problems, particularly down the wings, and the Belles’ defence had to be alert to scramble the ball away on a few occasions. However the Belles worked their way back into the game and on 27 minutes Hannah McWilliams did well to dribble her way into the box to shoot, but her shot lacked power.
A minute later Breen was in again in the action. A lovely passage of play by Andy Butler’s side saw the busy Tugby thread a ball out to the left wing-back whose drilled shot from the edge of the box fizzed just wide of the post. McWilliams was then next to go closest, with a great turn on the edge of the box that took her away from her defender to unleash a shot which forced the keeper into a smart save down to the right.
However, Solihull came back with chances of their own, with a shot over the bar on the half-hour and a free-header from a corner that was goal-bound but cleared off the line. The deadlock was finally broken when the hosts took the lead just before the break, with a long ball out of defence over the top that found Lyndsey Ross-Baker in space on the right. The pacy winger advanced into the box and slotted the ball past the advancing Ellie Sharpe into the net.
Andy Butler made a half-time substitution bringing on Nadia Khan to replace the injured Emily Cahill, and the Belles looked to start the better, closing down the hosts and moving the ball with more purpose. On 57 minutes the pressure was starting to build when McWilliams fired a shot from 25 yards out to be parried by the keeper only as far out as Khan whose follow-up shot was also palmed away by the keeper for a corner.
Sophie Brown replaced McWilliams on 64 minutes and two minutes later Khan brought the Belles level in superb fashion when she took the ball down the left, dribbled past two Moors players into the box and unleashed a curling shot into the far top corner of the net.
Belles almost took the lead immediately after when a long ball over the top found Brown whose pace and power took her past two defenders and into the box, but her shot went just past the post. Brown went close again five minutes later when she got on the end of a great cross to the back post by Sophie Bell, but her strong header again went just wide.
The Belles were now well on top and pushing for the winner. Both Breen and Saxton shot over the bar before the pressure finally paid off five minutes before the end. A high ball by Jess Andrew over the top looked a lost cause for Bell, but she did brilliantly well to chase it to the byline and then clip the ball back across goal for Jasmine Saxton to strike a low shot into the corner for her 21st goal of the season.
There was a let off for the Belles on 87 minutes when Solihull hit the post with a header from a corner, but Khan wrapped up the game in added time and in a somewhat strange fashion when her speculative lob into the box from near the half-way circle looped over the stranded keeper and into the net.
The Belles closed out the game to make it a first away win in the league since the end of January, and the result sees Andy Butler’s side finish as runners-up in the league after a very positive and promising first full season in charge.