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REPORT | Belles 1 Leafield Athletic 0

13 February 2023


REPORT | Belles 1 Leafield Athletic 0

13 February 2023

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A Sophie Brown strike was enough to break the deadlock and claim the points against a dogged Leafield Athletic side at the Iqbal Poultry stadium.

Playing their third home game out of six successive home Sunday fixtures, Belles were looking to continue a five-game unbeaten run in which they had scored twenty goals and conceded just one, and to keep within touching distance of league leaders Stourbridge FC.

Belles manager Nick Buxton made one change to the starting line up that comprehensively beat Long Eaton last weekend, bringing in Nadia Khan for Ryley Johnson, with Sophie Brown returning from injury to the bench.

The game started quietly with both sides testing each other out, but after ten minutes Belles started to put attempts on goal together. Both Lindsey Tugby and Mollie Barlow tried their luck from the edge of the box, with Leafield ‘keeper Colette Ball saving comfortably. Freya Rattenbury put in a strong header from a Holly Housley corner which went wide, and Bell was able to use her height to catch an attempted chip by Sophie Scargill from 20 yards.

On twenty-four minutes, captain Jess Andrew - on her fiftieth appearance for the Belles -  just cleared the crossbar with a free-kick, and two minutes later Barlow shot over from another Housley corner. Although Belles were now dominating the possession and attacks, the passing and finishing in the final third lacked the desired quality and if anything made it easier for the Leafield defence and Bell in particular to soak up the pressure.

On thirty nine minutes Tugby played in a low ball to the near post but Bell was alert to the danger, just beating Scargill to the ball. From the subsequent corner, Rattenbury had another free header but again went just wide. A minute later Belles had a great chance to take the lead when Scargill put a first time through the Leafield back line for Nadia Khan to run onto with only the advancing Bell to beat, but her first touch took the ball away from her and Bell collected safely.

Two minutes later Rattenbury tried a speculative lob from thirty yards, which Bell watched carefully as it skimmed over the crossbar, and then Leafield nearly caught Belles out with their first attack of the game when a move down the right found Grace Murphy on the six yard line. Under pressure from Rattenbury she was unable to turn and get her shot off, and the danger was cleared.

Just before halftime Belles had their best chance of the half when Emily Cahill and Izzy Gigg combined in midfield to win the ball back and pass out to Khan on the right. Khan then cut in and went on a mazy dribble into the box, where she found Barlow free on the six yard line. Barlow struck a sweet volley goalwards, but Bell was there again to catch the ball and keep the scores level going into the break.

For the second half Belles manager Nick Buxton brought on Sophie Brown for Barlow who had suffered a knock in the first half, and bringing a more physical presence to the Belles attack. The home side continued to force the pace of the game, and on forty-nine minutes following good work by Brown and Rattenbury, Housley found Tugby who made space on the edge of box but put her left-footed shot wide.

On fifty minutes Khan - now on the left - won the ball in defence and moved it inside to Tugby, who then played a 30 yard pass for Scargill to burst into the box and take the ball on. Scargill beat her marker but chose to shoot immediately, sending the effort over the bar. On fifty-seven minutes Scargill had another chance to give Belles the lead when Brown headed forward a Jess Andrew free-kick into her path, but under pressure put too much onto her second lobbed attempt of the game.

However, the deadlock was finally broken on sixty-minutes when Scargill turned provider following good work by Tugby, winning the ball back in midfield and then bringing in Gigg to play Scargill in on the right with a defence-splitting pass. Scargill then immediately put a low ball back in across the six yard line for the in-coming SOPHIE BROWN to smash first-time into the net for her third goal of the season.

Belles then made a substitution with forward Shannon Durkin replacing Gigg, as Buxton looked to go for a second goal to kill the game off. On sixty-eight minutes Belles nearly did just that when a Housley free-kick into the box fell to Rattenbury who was unlucky to see her shot parried onto the bar by Bell. The ball rebounded directly to Durkin, but the striker was unable to keep her shot down and it went over the bar.

Up to this point, Leafield had hardly troubled Ellie Sharpe in the home goal, but after a couple of substitutions the visitors started to press further forward in search of an equaliser. On eighty minutes they had the first of two great chances to level the scores when Neive Fallon played in Daisy-Mai Clements to shoot powerfully just past the post and the diving Sharpe. Moments later, Fallon herself received the ball in space following a free kick but luckily for Belles volleyed wide from eighteen yards.

The game now ebbed and flowed as Leafield pushed forward and Belles looked to exploit the spaces on the break. Bell had to be alert to two good chances for the home side when Khan found Scargill who then put Brown through in on goal, but the Leafield ‘keeper was quickly off her line to bravely smother the ball at Brown’s feet. Two minutes later Bell had again to be alert to another Scargill through ball, this time taking the ball off the toes of Khan.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, Buxton replaced POTM Rattenbury with Olivia Harness, and moments later some intricate passing between Izzy Trevillion,Tugby and Khan saw the Pakistani international get to the byline and pull back the ball for the advancing Durkin, but the eight-goal striker couldn’t get enough on her low shot to beat Bell. At the other end, Sharpe had to keep her eye on a couple of long shots as the visitors countered.

As the game went into added time, Trevillion, Tugby and Khan again linked up well on the left for Trevillion to put in a deep cross to the back post which Scargill under pressure managed to control, turn and shoot, but saw her shot deflected just past the post. Then, at the other end, and with virtually the last kick of the game, the visitors could have snatched a point if it weren’t for Brown tracking back to superbly take the ball off the toes of Talitta Chase just as she was about to shoot from six yards.  

Team: Sharpe, Rattenbury (Harness 85 mins), Andrew ©, Trevillion, Cahill, Gigg (Durkin 61 mins), Tugby, Scargill, Housley, Khan, Barlow (Brown 46).

Subs unused: Wishart, Johnson


Belles: Brown 60 mins

Belles Player Of The Match: Freya Rattenbury

Attendance: 206


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