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REPORT | Leek Town Ladies 2 Belles 1

27 March 2023


REPORT | Leek Town Ladies 2 Belles 1

27 March 2023

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Belles rue a number of missed chances as they fall to defeat away at Leek Town Ladies.

With Lindsey Tugby a late withdrawal due to illness and Nadia Khan away on international duty, Belles manager Nick Buxton handed Abi Coley her first start in midfield. Olivia Harness replaced Freya Rattenbury in the starting line up, with Natalie Banaszczyk and Phoebe Marrow called up to the bench.

It was the hosts who forced the early play, followed by a stoppage for injury to Emily Cahill who had collided with the goal frame at a Leek corner. After seven minutes Leek should have taken the lead when another corner was sent back into to the six yard area, only for the unmarked Jennifer Jacques to head over from two yards out.

After ten minutes it was Belles’ chance to take the lead when Ryley Johnson outpaced the full back down the right and put a cross in from deep that Mollie Barlow met on the volley at close range, but with Leek ‘keeper Bethany Cotterell stranded she put her shot over.

The game started to open up and on thirteen minutes Ellie Sharpe had to be alert to get behind a shot from Paris O’Connor on the edge of the box. At the other end, Belles’ captain Jess Andrew was unable to keep her shot down following a Holly Housley corner.

This ebb and flow continued with both sides looking for the breakthrough, which Belles nearly got on twenty-seven minutes when Abi Coley made a strong run into the box to meet a Barlow cross at the back post but unfortunately scuffed her shot. A minute later however it was the hosts who took the lead when Katie Gibbons cushioned a neat header into the path of KATIE MAYA who advanced to the edge of the box and volleyed powerfully over Sharpe into the net.

Belles looked to respond and on thirty-six minutes nearly levelled when Izzy Gigg played in Barlow on the left who shot hard and low first time, forcing Cotterell to get down sharply and turn the ball around the post at full stretch. However it was from the subsequent corner that Belles drew level when Coley’s delivery came out to SOPHIE SCARGILL who first chested the ball down and then smashed a dipping volley into the right hand corner of the net from twenty-five yards.

As the game approached half-time Belles continued to have the upper hand in the play and on forty-five minutes a Jess Andrew long ball out of defence found Coley, who advanced into the box and was unlucky to see her low shot put round the post by Cotterell.

In added time, a link up between Olivia Harness and Scargill saw Johnson put in the clear down the right, but it needed a double save this time by Cotterell to keep the scores level going into the break as she first parried Johnson’s shot and then got her body behind Housley’s follow-up coming in from the left.

At the start of the second half Freya Rattenbury replaced Em Cahill who was still suffering from her collision with the goal frame. The first few minutes saw both sides looking to impose themselves on the other but with no real joy for either. However, on fifty-three minutes the hosts regained the lead when a long ball out from the backline was taken to the left byline and crossed for the in-coming CHANTELLE GALLAGHER to neatly turn and rifle the ball home from six yards.

With Belles looking unsettled by the goal and needing to get back into the game, Belles manager Nick Buxton started to make changes, replacing Ryley Johnson with Sophie Brown on fifty-eight minutes, and moving Olivia Harness out to the right. Two minutes later Izzy Gigg put a shot over the bar from a corner, and Brown was then unlucky to put a header over the bar following good work and cross from Harness.

Belles were now dominating the play and on sixty-eight minutes nearly levelled when Cotterell flailed at an Abi Coley corner with the ball coming through to Jess Andrew. The Belles captain saw her close-range shot somehow headed on to the crossbar by Maya on the line and then bounce down and away, to be followed by a strong Belles’ shout for handball that was dismissed by the ref.

A minute later Shelbey Morris replaced Mollie Barlow for fresh legs up front as Belles pressed. However attacks were coming to nothing despite the pressure, with the visitors guilty of rushing the play whilst at the same time having to be mindful of the hosts looking to break on the counter,

As the game entered it’s closing stages, Shelbey Morris had the ball taken off her toes by Cotterell, and then on eighty-three minutes Scargill found Harness who played in Brown on the right. Brown went past her marker with ease and shot from six yards, but Cotterell was there to turn the ball yet again around the post.

Leek looked to counter when they could, but were coming up against Izzy Trevillion who was comfortably breaking up their play. As the game went into added time, the hosts  survived another handball scare when Coley looked to dribble through into the box, with the ref again waving play-on.

With time running out, Olivia Harness intercepted a clearance down the right, played a one-two with Morris and sent a low cross into the six yard area for the in-coming Brown, only for a defender to get the slightest of touches to take the ball away from Brown and out for a corner where as any touch from the Belles striker would have surely put the ball in the net.

Belles kept pushing for the equaliser but with Leek holding firm and happy to clear the ball out to anywhere, the ref blew for full-time to put a serious dint in Belles’ promotion chances and at the same time give the hosts a huge step towards league safety.

Team: Sharpe, Harness, Andrew ©, Trevillion, Housley, Cahill (Rattenbury 46 mins), Gigg, Coley, Scargill, Johnson (Brown 58 mins), Barlow (Morris 69 mins).

Subs unused: Banaszczyk, Marrow.

Belles Player Of The Match: Izzy Trevillion

Attendance: 65






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