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REPORT | Belles 2 Sporting Khalsa 1

16 October 2022

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A late strike by Belles club captain Sophie Scargill sealed the points in a tight game at the Iqbal Poultry stadium.

Belles manager Nick Buxton named the same starting line-up that won away last week at Peterborough, with Lily Wishart and Shelbey Morris replacing the unavailable Sophie Brown and Eliza Bedford on the bench.

It was Belles who had the first chance of the game when new signing Ugandan international Otandeka Laki lost her marker and broke into the box, only to see her shot go wide of the far post. However, it was the visitors who then took the game to Belles with their fast counter-attacking play, and they took the lead on six minutes when Olivia Woolston used her pace to get round the back of the Belles’ defence and played a perfect ball across the six-yard line for the in-coming Angell Craig-Tapper to fire in from close range.

Belles looked to respond when Olivia Harness volleyed Holly Housley’s corner over the bar after ten minutes, but it was taking some time for the hosts to get into their rhythm, combined with some dogged defending by the visitors to deny Nadia Khan, Shannon Durkin and Laki upfront and then having to deal with the counter-threat on the break.

On thirty-five minutes Belles had their best chance of the game to that point when a defence-splitting through-ball by Izzy Gigg found Durkin out on the right, who then crossed for the in-coming Laki, only to have the ball nipped off her toes by Hall in the Khalsa goal. However, four minutes later Belles were level after a Housley corner was handled in the box and the resultant penalty coolly converted by captain Jess Andrew for her fifth goal of the season.

Belles opened the second-half with purpose and started to dominate the play with Tugby, Scargill and Gigg in midfield becoming more influential, and Chloe Dean seeing her cross hit the bar. The visitors were still looking to counter on the break but the Belles backline was now managing any attacks more effectively, although on sixty-two minute Belles keeper Ellie Sharpe was in the right place to save a rare shot on goal.

Nick Buxton made changes, with debutant Shelbey Morris replacing Shannon Durkin and Lily Wishart coming on for Chloe Dean. On seventy-three minutes a run down the right and cross into the box by Scargill found Morris, but the former Leeds Utd striker was adjudged to have handled the ball just as she shaped to shoot from twelve yards. A few minutes later, Khan chased a lost cause to beat two defenders to the ball but her cross into the box was just too high for Morris waiting to pounce on the six-yard line.

However, the pressure finally told on eighty-five minutes when Wishart went on a run down the left and crossed into the box. The ball just evaded the advancing Scargill and went through to Laki at the back post who saw her shot saved on the line, and in the ensuing scramble Scargill closed in to hammer home her first goal of the season and give Belles a late lead. With time running out, Khalsa pumped balls into the box to try and rescue a point but the home defence marshaled by Andrew held firm for Belles to secure the win and move into second place in the league.


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