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REPORT | Rotherham Utd 0 Belles 6

27 November 2022


REPORT | Rotherham Utd 0 Belles 6

27 November 2022

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A brace each from Nadia Khan, Shannon Durkin and Leah Hardy saw Belles comfortably through to the next round of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Cup at the Roundwood Sports Complex.

Hardy was making her first start since returning to Belles after some eight years, and played a significant part in a potent attacking force that was a constant threat to the home defence throughout.

On a heavy pitch, Nick Buxton's side looked to impose themselves on the game from the start, and the early warning signs were there for the hosts when in the first minute Holly Housley down the left played in Khan and Hardy who saw their close efforts saved by Georgia Ward in the Rotherham goal.

Belles continued to press high up the pitch and force Rotherham into mistakes, with Housley continuing to provide tantalising crosses into the box, just missed on one occasion by Olivia Harness coming in at the back post. The hosts were also living dangerously from their own goal kicks in trying to pass out from the back, with Khan dispossessing the recieving defender on eight yards but then shooting over.

However, from the subsequent home goal kick on eight minutes, Belles took the lead when the receiving defender passed straight to Hardy in the box, who then shimmied past two other defenders before shooting powerfully into the net.

Rotherham looked to get back into the game, but struggled to get into the final third as the Belles' defence was quick to close down and dispossess. At the other end, Hardy went close from a free kick, and when Housley played a ball into the box for Sophie Scargill to pass into the path of Oti Laki at the back post, Ward was again there to block the shot and deny Laki a certain goal. 

On seventeen minutes Belles went two-up when a long-ball pumped forward by Amy Nowell at right back allowed Khan to outpace the Rotherham backline, round the advancing keeper and pass the ball into the net for her fourth goal of the season.

With rolling substitutions a feature of the County Cup competition, Nick Buxton started to rotate his squad over the next ten minutes, with Izzy Trevillion making a welcome return after eight weeks out with injury. On forty- three minutes, Belles went further ahead when, from a Housley corner on the left, Hardy under pressure on the six yard line managed to loop a header goalwards that Ward caught but was unable to stop going in, giving Belles control of the game going into the break.

Buxton continued to rotate his team, having brought on Shannon Durkin earlier and for the second half giving Development player Mollie Barlow her first team debut. Two minutes in from the restart, the young striker nearly opened her account when she got on the end of another pin-point cross by Housley to the back post, but was denied by Ward who saved her shot at point-blank range.

However, there was nothing Ward could do in the forty-ninth minute when Housley - having so much time and space on the left - was again found by Jess Andrew and put in the perfect ball behind the home defence for Durkin to run on to and chip the keeper first time from twelve yards.

On fifty-four minutes Durkin nearly got her second when she was put through by a low long ball from Freya Rattenbury, but Ward was quickly off her line to smother the danger. One minute later, Barlow got on the end of yet another Housley through ball, but Ward was yet again there to block the youngster's shot with her legs.

The attacks were now coming in waves as the home defence tired and Belles rotated the squad, allowing Hardy, Khan, and Scargill to sit behind the front two and direct the play. On sixty-eight minutes Belles got their fifth goal of the game, when a clearance out of defence found Hardy on the centre spot, who turned and fed in Khan on the left to run forty yards, outpace the home defence and shoot past the on-coming Ward into the net.

Two minutes later Belles went six-up with a great passing move starting with Laki on the right. She passed inside to Hardy who played it out to Gigg advancing on the home defence. Gigg then played a perfect ball through the retreating backline for Durkin on the edge of the box to contol and shoot under Ward for her brace.

Belles continued to press and Ward had to be alert to a long effort by Harness and a shot from the edge of the box by Hardy. Apart from a couple of long range shots, a corner and and a free kick, the hosts had hardly troubled Belles keeper Ellie Sharpe, but she had to be alert to what was Rotherham's best chance of the game when on eighty-one minutes a long throw into the box led to a shot from eighteen yards that Sharpe seemed to have covered but then let slip out of her hands, only to recover in time to stop the ball going over the line.

With further substitutions on both sides the game started to edge towards the final whistle, but not before Durkin nearly got her hat-trick when fed by Gigg for a first-time shot on the edge of the six yard box that skimmed the outside of the post with Ward beaten. Similarly, Hardy nearly got her third as well when, recieving a throw-in on the byline, she beat her defender, cut inside and shot low to the near post, but Ward was again there to block.

The visitors were again unlucky not to score as the game went into added time, when Harness played a thirty yard ball through to Durkin who, on the left of the box, curled an effort to the top right corner only to be denied yet again by the hand of Opposition Player Of The Match Georgia Ward, deflecting the ball over for a corner.  

That proved to be the last action of a game in which Belles dominated from start to finish, and sees them through to the Third Round of the County Cup  - details of that fixture to be announced shortly.












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