A first Belles goal for Ryley Johnson, a brace each from Mollie Barlow and Sophie Scargill, and a Shannon Durkin strike saw Belles eventually seal a comprehensive win against the division’s bottom club.
The scoreline could have been into double figures if it were not for the heroics of the visiting young ‘keeper Laura Setchfield, who pulled a series of spectacular saves throughout the game to keep a dominant Belles at bay.
Belles were looking to close the gap with leaders Stourbridge and take advantage of Long Eaton’s torrid season so far. The visitors were without a win since the start of the season and had since been on the end of some very heavy defeats, largely a result of having to rebuild their squad following the departure of half the team at short notice in the summer.
As expected, Belles took the game to Long Eaton and after six minutes had the first real chance when Mollie Barlow met a Lindsey Tugby cross with a powerful volley that Setchfield saved with her feet. A minute later Setchfield again foiled Barlow at close range following neat build-up play between Tugby, Ryley Johnson and Sophie Scargill, and on thirteen minutes was on hand again to pull off a point-blank save at the near post as Scargill met Johnson’s cross with a first-time half-volley.
This was to set a theme for the game, but on sixteen minutes there was a big let off for the visitors when Belles were awarded a penalty following a trip on Izzy Gigg as she turned to shoot in the box. The usually reliant Jess Andrew stepped up to take the kick, but to Long Eaton’s relief the Belles captain put her penalty wide.
However, Belles did eventually take the lead on nineteen minutes when Izzy Trevillion intercepted a ball on the left and found Holly Housley out on the wing. Housley’s cross into the box was spilled on the six-yard line by the young ‘ keeper under pressure from the advancing SOPHIE SCARGILL, who then simply tapped the ball into the empty net. A minute later, Belles thought they had scored a second when Emily Cahill made a crunching tackle to win the ball back in midfield and play in Johnson on the right. Johnson’s shot was parried into the path of Barlow who slammed the ball into the net, but was then deemed offside to the puzzlement of all.
Belles continued to dominate the play to the extent that Long Eaton were struggling to put together any meaningful attacks, and on thirty-two minutes extended their lead with a neat team move out from the back and down the left. Cahill combined with Trevillion to find Housley, who played it down the line to Barlow. Barlow then played the ball back inside into the path of Gigg, who dribbled past her marker in the box and passed low across the face of goal for RYLEY JOHNSON to finish off the move at the back post and score her first goal for the Belles. On thirty-six minutes, in the final meaningful attack of the half, Barlow was unlucky not to make contact with a looping Johnson cross to the back post, and Belles went into the break perhaps not as ahead in terms of goals as their dominance of the game would have suggested.
That scenario continued after break, as one-way traffic was resumed. On fifty-two minutes Belles manager Nick Buxton made his first changes, replacing Cahill and Johnson with Shannon Durkin and Nadia Khan, looking to add more potency to the Belles attack. This nearly paid off straight away when Durkin fed in Barlow on the edge of the box, but the young striker was then denied by another impressive double save by Setchfield. Five minutes later the young 'keeper again came to the rescue of her beleaguered teammates with two more saves: first to block Durkin’s shot from the left and then Khan’s low shot from the right.
On sixty-three minutes Buxton brought on Olivia Harnes for Freya Rattenbury. Moments later Harness received the ball on the right wing from Tugby and put in a superb cross along the six yard line that somehow went through the crowd of three Belles players, two defenders and the keeper, with none of them managing to get a touch.
Despite all the pressure, the Long Eaton defence continued to hold firm, frustrating the Belles’ constant attacks. On seventy-three minutes, Buxton played his final cards, replacing Housley and Gigg with Chloe Dean and Lily Wishart. Ten minutes later the visitors’ valiant rearguard action was finally broken when SOPHIE SCARGILL got on the end of a Wishart free-kick and smashed the ball home from eight yards for her second of the game and Belles' third.
Belles then looked to increase their tally as the Long Eaton players tired and spaces started to open up, but Setchfield was still providing a formidable barrier to their efforts and made her third set of double saves to first deny Barlow on the ground at the near post, and then quickly recover to acrobatically collect Durkin’s goal-bound shot on the line.
However, as the clock ticked down to the end of normal time, Belles were finally able to put the game to bed with a late flurry of three goals in a three minute spell. A poor pass out of defence was intercepted by Khan who passed to Scargill. Scargill then chipped a first-time ball to out to MOLLIE BARLOW on the right who shot low and hard past the over-worked 'keeper into the far corner of the net.
A minute later Long Eaton were caught on the break, with Scargill providing her second assist when she played a forward ball out of the Belles’ half for SHANNON DURKIN to chase from the halfway line. Approaching the box, Durkin cut inside her marker and then slotted the ball into the left-hand corner past the advancing Setchfield for her eighth goal of the season.
As the game went into added time, the visitors were again caught on the break with POTM Scargill driving forward to feed Durkin. With Khan and Barlow queuing up on the right, Durkin played in MOLLIE BARLOW who placed a neat finish past Setchfield to make it six for the home side and her third goal in four games.
With seconds remaining, it looked like there would be no further goal action, but to their credit Long Eaton had been pressing and got a consolation goal when Belles ‘keeper Ellie Sharpe – who had been a spectator for virtually the entire match – inadvertently cleared a back pass straight to YASMIN HARRIS, who finished smartly from twelve yards.
Team: Sharpe, Rattenbury (Harness 63 mins), Andrew ©, Trevillion, Johnson (Khan 52 mins), Cahill (Durkin 52 mins), Gigg (Dean 73 mins), Tugby, Scargill, Housley (Wishart 73 mins), Barlow.
Belles: Scargill 2, Barlow 2, Johnson, Durkin.
Long Eaton: Harris
Belles Player Of The Match: Sophie Scargill