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Belles

REPORT | Sporting Khalsa 1 Belles 1

9 April 2023

Belles

REPORT | Sporting Khalsa 1 Belles 1

9 April 2023

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A late Mollie Barlow lob secured a point for Belles in an enthralling encounter at the Guardian Warehousing Arena.

Belles manager Nick Buxton handed a start to striker Sophie Brown and also welcomed Izzy Trevillion and Lindsey Tugby back into the starting line-up.

Belles kicked off down the slope, and five minutes into the game play was stopped as a clash of heads led to a head injury to Sophie Scargill. The Belles' club captain was unable to continue and was replaced by Ryley Johnson.

On the re-start, Belles won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty box from which Olivia Harness put in a curling goal-bound shot, only to see Khalsa 'keeper Natalie Hall tip the ball round the post at full stretch. Belles continued to put the home defence under pressure, with Abi Coley putting a teasing cross into the box but the unmarked Lindsey Tugby couldn't get enough on her header to direct it goalwards.

Khalsa came into the game and on fifteen minutes had a good chance when Laura Smith put a header just wide of the post from a corner. Two minutes later however, it was Belles who should have taken the lead when Coley flicked on a Holly Housley throw-in for Sophie Brown to run onto and bear down on Hall, but as the 'keeper came out to narrow the angle Brown put her shot wide.

It was then the home side's turn to nearly go one up when Liv Woolston went down the right and put in a great ball across the face of goal, eluding the diving Ellie Sharpe, with Isabelle Austin-Short ghosting in at the back post just unable to get a touch with the net gaping.

Belles then went back on the offensive and on twenty-two minutes Brown used her strength to dispossess the defender and was again in on goal but Hall stood up and parried her shot away. Moments later, Johnson played in Izzy Gigg who burst into the box and crossed for Brown only for the Khalsa defence to clear just in time. From the following corner the ball came out to Harness but she put her shot over the bar.

Belles were having most of the play but had to mindful of Khalsa on the break and Harness did well to recover and dispossess Woolston when she was put through on goal. On thirty-two minutes Emily Cahill won the ball in midfield and fed Coley, who in turn put Brown through but Khalsa 'keeper Hall came out early to again deny Brown at close range. Minutes later, Brown chased down a pass with Gigg picking up the loose ball and advancing into the box, but Hall was in the right place to collect her low shot.

As half time approached Jess Andrew put a high free-kick into the box, with Gigg heading the rebound back into the six yard area from where Brown - already falling backwards - blazed over. At the other end, Woolston put a shot in from eighteen yards but Sharpe saved comfortably.

Belles had dominated the play and chances in the first half but had been unable to find a way past Hall who was having a blinder in the home goal. However, it was the home side who started the second half better, with a shot going over from a free-kick and then a low cross across the face of goal that luckily evaded the two Khalsa players coming in at the back post. However the hosts took the lead on forty-nine minutes when captain MEGAN CANN got on the end of a Maja Szymkowiak corner to head in from eight yards out. 

Spurred on by their advantage, Khalsa continued to force the pace and have the majority of the possession through the next period of play, with Belles not making much headway going forward. However, despite Khalsa's pressing, Sharpe was only troubled twice, with a shot across the face of goal that was going wide and then getting her fingers to another cross to tip it away from goal from which Johnson with great defensive work forced Szymkowiak to put her follow-up wide.

On the hour Belles started to press higher up the pitch and Johnson was unlucky to see her shot from twenty yards go just over the bar following a long pass up the field from Harness. On sixty-eight minutes, Nick Buxton made the second of his changes replacing Sophie Brown with Mollie Barlow and putting on a fresh pair legs upfront as Belles went in search of the equaliser. 

As the game entered the final quarter the play ebbed and flowed with some quality passing football on show from both sides, but no real chances on goal as both defences held firm. On seventy-eight minutes, Shelbey Morris replaced Holly Housley to join the attack with Coley moving to the left supported by the ever-reliant Izzy Trevillion.

As the final whistle approached it looked as if time would run out for Belles, but due to a number of second-half injury stoppages the referee indicated there would be an additional seven minutes to play, and it was in added time that Belles got the goal they deserved when Harness played a perfect long ball over the top of the Khalsa defence for MOLLIE BARLOW to run onto under pressure from two defenders and calmly lob the ball over the advancing Hall to level the scores.

With only seconds remaining, rather than sit back both sides went for a winner with some exciting end-to-end play, and it was Belles who nearly snatched it with virtually the last kick of the game when Coley hit the bar from a free-kick, with Cahill unable to get a finishing touch in the ensuing scramble as the ball came down in the six yard area.

***

Team: Sharpe, Trevillion, Andrew ©, Harness, Housley (Morris 78 mins), Cahill, Tugby, Gigg, Coley, Scargill (Johnson 6 mins), Brown (Barlow 68 mins).

Subs unused: Bedford, Rattenbury

Belles Player Of The Match: Emily Cahill

Attendance: 70

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