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Belles

REPORT | Leafield Athletic 0 Belles 3

17 April 2023

Belles

REPORT | Leafield Athletic 0 Belles 3

17 April 2023

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Belles returned to winning ways at Leafield with a powerful team performance and a hat-trick from Sophie Brown.

Following two consecutive away draws and the unavailability of a number of players, Belles manager Nick Buxton changed the team formation to take on a side who were looking for their highest-ever finish in FAWNL Division One Midlands.

On a heavy pitch, Belles should have taken an early lead on six minutes when captain Jess Andrew played a short free-kick to Olivia Harness on the halfway line, who then put a high cross into the box. The ball came off the head of a defender and fell nicely to Mollie Barlow but she blazed over from six yards.

Three minutes later, Izzy Gigg received the ball from Izzy Trevillion out on the right and advanced into the box to shoot towards the top right hand corner, only for Colette Bell in the home goal to stretch and parry the shot out for a corner.

Belles had started the stronger and were not giving Leafield any time on the ball, and it wasn’t until the fourteenth minute that Ellie Sharpe was called into action, comfortably saving a long effort from Daisy-Mai Clements, and then moments later watching a speculative effort from Chloe Shirley go wide of the post.

Two minutes later, Gigg intercepted a pass on the halfway line and, in what was to be a recurring theme particularly in the second half, drove forward towards goal, electing to shoot from twenty yards but her shot was straight into the arms of Bell.

Belles continued to press with intensity, using the width of Abi Coley on one wing and Barlow on the other, and it was Coley who nearly gave Belles the lead on eighteen minutes when she got on the end of a Harness free-kick at the far post, but her shot skimmed the wrong side of the upright and out of play.

This pattern then continued for the next twenty minutes, with Belles dominating the play and Leafield forced to playing on the break. However, despite the possession and build up from the back and across the middle of the park, Belles didn't create any further clearcut scoring chances in this period, as final balls into the box either went astray or came up against a stubborn home defence and goalkeeper.

However, this was all to change as half-time approached. Leafield had attacked down the right with a shot from Jess Lowe, forcing Sharpe to tip the ball round the post for a corner. Moments later a good passing move between Holly Housley, Emily Cahill and Coley found Barlow who chased the ball down into the Leafield box, forcing a rebound which fell to Sophie Brown who held off her marker and hit a strong half-volley just wide.

The warning signs for the hosts had been there from the start, with Brown's strength in both the air and on the ground causing concern for the Leafield backline, and this was to prove decisive as on the stroke of half-time Lindsey Tugby held off two players to put the ball out to the left wing for Coley, who in turn beat her marker and put a ball to the near post for SOPHIE BROWN to turn it into the net and break the deadlock.

And it immediately got worse for Leafield as straight from the kick off they played the ball back to their penalty area where SOPHIE BROWN robbed the defender and slotted the ball past the advancing Bell for her second of the game and to put Belles two-up going into the break.

In the second half, Belles continued where they had left off, and if anything upped the pressure on the hosts, with Player Of The Match Izzy Gigg becoming more influential, although Leafield were still looking to get back into the game on the break.

On fifty-minutes, Tugby received the ball out on the left and dribbled into the box, but with just the ‘keeper to beat, she skewed her shot well wide. A few minutes later, Leafield broke down the right with Clements advancing into the box, but Belles captain Jess Andrew was on hand to close the winger down and force her to shoot well over from sixteen yards.

On sixty minutes, Gigg went on a run that took her past three defenders and was unlucky to see her low shot go just wide of the post, with Bell struggling to get across to cover. Five minutes later, Brown was put through twice: first by Barlow and then following another mazy run by Gigg, but on both occasions put her shots just wide.

As the game moved into the final quarter, Belles continued to pile on the pressure, and Brown was again unlucky when Cahill and Trevillion - on her eightieth appearance for the club - combined to find Barlow out on the right, who then swung in a low cross for Brown to connect at the near post, with her shot being deflected behind for a corner.

With ten minutes of normal time remaining, Belles manager Nick Buxton made a triple substitution to put fresh legs on the pitch, with Freya Rattenbury, Eliza Bedford and Ryley Johnson replacing Barlow, Trevillion and Cahill.

Two minutes later Belles went three goals up when SOPHIE BROWN finally got the hat-trick her efforts deserved, collecting the ball from another surging Gigg run, and with her back to goal turning to hit a superb strike from outside the penalty area that went in off the far post giving the diving Bell no chance.

Having seemingly put the game to bed, Brown was given a deserved rest and replaced by Natalie Banaszczyk for her second appearance of the season. Rather than sit on their lead, Belles continued to press as the game went into added time, with Bell having to get behind a goal-bound Bedford shot and Banaszczyk linking up well with Housley to put Gigg in on goal, with Bell this time putting her shot out for a corner.

In the dying seconds, Leafield pushed forward to find a consolation goal but the Belles’ backline held firm and, on the back of a powerful and hard-working squad performance, the three points were secured, moving Belles back into second-place in the league with three games to go.

***

Team: Sharpe, Trevillion (Rattenbury 80mins), Andrew ©, Harness, Housley, Cahill (Johnson 80mins), Tugby, Gigg, Coley, Brown (Banaszczyk 84mins), Barlow (Bedford 80mins).

Subs unused: -

Goals: Brown 3 (45, 45+2, 82mins)

Belles Player Of The Match: Izzy Gigg

Attendance: 127

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