Belles are hoping for a bumper crowd this Sunday 19th February as they look to reach the Final of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women's County Cup when they take on Barnsley Women at the Iqbal Poultry stadium.
It's thirteen years since Belles last reached the Semi-Final stage in 2009/10, then going on to win the trophy that year for a remarkable seventh time in eight successive Final appearances.
Between 2010 and 2018 the First Team did not compete in the competition, with Belles Reserves representing the club instead. Following demotion to the FAWNL in 2018-19, Belles First Team again entered the competition, losing that season to Sunday's visitors Barnsley Women 3-2 after extra time at Rossington. The competition was then halted during the Covid pandemic and revived last season, with Belles bowing out at the quarter-finals stage in a narrow 1-0 defeat away at Huddersfield Town Women.
Barnsley Women's FC was originally formed as Barnsley Ladies FC in 1982 with links to Barnsley FC, and despite being geographically close, our two clubs have rarely met in competitive games due to playing in different regional leagues and at different levels in the football pyramid over time.
In 2017 The Reds were promoted from the North East Regional Women's Football League (Tier 5) to FAWNL Division 1 North - the same level currently as Belles. In 2018 the club was taken over by Barnsley Women's Football Club Ltd, with a subsequent name-change to 'Barnsley Women's FC', and are no longer linked to the men's club (and not to be confused with 'Barnsley Ladies FC', a recently formed club who are partnered with Barnsley FC but play at Tier 6 level in the North East Regional Women's Football League, Southern Division).
Barnsley Women had their best ever Vitality Women's FA Cup run in 2019/20 when they reached the Fourth Round, losing 5-0 away to the fully professional side Tottenham Hotspur Women. This season The Reds played in front of a crowd of 28,585 at St James' Park in a narrow 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Newcastle United Women - the largest attendance to date for a Women's FA Cup match other than for the finals played at Wembley.
Along with Huddersfield Town, The Reds have dominated the County Cup in recent years, with both teams having reached the last five finals. Barnsley won the trophy in 2015/16 with a 3-0 win and again in 2018/19 on penalties after a 3-3 draw at the New York stadium. Last season Barnsley lost the final 5-0 to Town at the EcoPower stadium.
In the FAWNL, Barnsley escaped relegation last year by two points in their first full season at Tier 4 level, but this season are currently sitting third in Division 1 North behind leaders Durham Cestria and Newcastle United. Belles manager Nick Buxton is under no illusions about Sunday's game.
Nick said: "It's going to be tough. Barnsley mullered us in a pre-season friendly last July and are going well in the league. They're a very good side that doesn't concede many and will be looking to make it to the County Cup Final for the sixth time on the trot.
"On the other hand, we are doing well at the moment too. We're second in the league and unbeaten in six, in which we've scored twenty-one goals and conceded one. We were very good against Leafield and Solihull the week before, so if we can bring those performances to Sunday's game then hopefully we will make it tough for Barnsley as well.
"Everyone's looking forward to the game - it's a massive opportunity to get to a Final and win some silverware for the club and the supporters. We've not had much to cheer about since relegation to FAWNL, so hopefully there will be a big crowd for what should be a very competitive game, and come the final whistle we can put smiles on people's faces with a win.
The game kicks off at 2pm at the Iqbal Stadium, Moorends, DN8 4NA