Aston Villa 0 Doncaster Belles 2: England and Smith clinch opening victory

The Belles celebrate Beth England's opener. Photo: Sianna Bennett.
The Belles celebrate Beth England's opener. Photo: Sianna Bennett.

Gordon Staniforth’s side got their FAWSL2 campaign off to a winning start thanks to a Beth England strike and Sue Smith penalty, writes Chris Donald.

England, who scored against Villa back in February in the FA Women’s Cup, fired home a volley after 15 minutes before Smith’s 86th minute spot-kick saw Belles clinch all three points at Sutton Coldfield last night.

The Belles began the game on top with Millie Bright and Smith both testing Villa ‘keeper Caitlin Leach from range.

A brilliant run from right-back Lyndsey Cunningham almost created the opening but for some good defending in the opening exchanges.

Jess Sigsworth then had the first golden opportunity to give the Belles the lead but the striker cut the ball back to Smith who was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

England’s opener was always coming though as she latched onto a Sigsworth delivery to rifle past Leach for 1-0.

After the restart, Villa began the brighter with Sarah Mayling going through but Nicola Hobbs was aware to any danger and cleared well.

The Belles were still knocking at the door for a second and went close when Bright’s late run into the box went unnoticed but she could only head onto the bar from Cunningham’s cross.

Villa’s Jade Richards attempted to offer up an early goal of the season contender but her overhead kick went wide of the mark following a corner.

The home side were well in the ascendency on 69 minutes and almost grabbed an equaliser when Carly Davies found space in the box but Hobbs saved well from close range.

Ash Mills later showed signs that the Belles were still capable of posing a threat but her shot was easily held by Leach.

Mayling was next to test Hobbs - forcing the Belles’ stopper into tipping wide.

As time ticked on, the Belles came back into it with Bright, Smith and Reanne Thomas all causing problems for the Villa defence.

And the second goal did eventually arrive after Smith sent Sigsworth away on the right and the striker was brought down by Maddie Cusack in the 86th minute.

Smith coolly slotted home the penalty into the top corner past a helpless Leach to give the Belles a commanding lead.

Alicia Robinson almost caught Hobbs out in added time but the Belles ‘keeper managed to tip over as she kept her clean sheet intact and Doncaster clinched maximum points.

Villa: Leach; N’Dow (Robinson ’53), Petrovic, Richards, Walker, McCue, Stringer (Davies ’53), Cusack, Ferguson (Merrick 75’), Mayling, Jones. Unused subs: Parker, Moran, Merrick

Belles: Hobbs; Cunningham, Little, Roberts, Cresswell; Lipka, Bright, England (Mills ’55); Thomas, Smith, Sigsworth. Unused subs: Williams, E. Johnson, M. Johnson, Govier

Attendance: 306