Doncaster Belles: ‘We’re in a two horse race with Sunderland’ says Staniforth

Sue Smith. Photo: Getty Images.
Sue Smith. Photo: Getty Images.
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Gordon Staniforth believes the FAWSL2 is a two-horse race after nothing could separate his side and table-toppers Sunderland when the high-flying pair clashed, writes Hayley Paterson.

Sunderland’s Rachel Furness cancelled out Sue Smith’s 13th minute thunderbolt during Saturday’s mouth-watering top-of-the-table tie.

A win would have propelled the Belles back into top spot in the league, however, the Lady Black Cats maintained their two-point gap at the top following this weekend’s 1-1 draw.

“Judging on that performance I don’t think others are as close as us,” Staniforth said.

“Saying that, we have to be careful because tempos will be different.

“Sunderland came out a bit to try and play. Your Durhams, your other teams might not do that. What we’ve got to do is try and break them down.”

Doncaster will arguably feel they should have had more goals in the opening 45 - particularly when Reanne Thomas was through on goal but drilled a shot into shot-stopper Rachel Laws with 28 minutes gone.

The visitors also boasted good efforts with Furness seeing a header hit the post and Sophie Williams having a lob cleared from danger by Belles skipper Leandra Little.

“I can’t fault the effort, it’s just about being that little bit more clinical in the final third,” said Staniforth.

“We’ve got to believe that it will happen. It might come from a little toe-ender, it might come from an own goal.

“But I thought we were superb against Sunderland.”

The Belles chief also labelled the performance from new signing Courtney Sweetman-Kirk as “outstanding”.

The 23-year-old has recently joined from Notts County and played as a lone striker against Sunderland in her home debut in place of forward Jess Sigsworth who is on World Cup duty with England’s U20s.

Sweetman-Kirk is likely to start against the Belles’ next opponents in bottom club Durham, away, this Saturday (11am).

“Durham haven’t got anything to lose when they play us,” Staniforth added.

“I’ve watched them on the videos, they’ve made life difficult for their opponents. We’ll have lots of possession but we need to be more clever, work on our set-pieces and get the three points we need.”