Doncaster Belles 1 Sunderland 1: Belles and Black Cats share spoils

Sue Smith. Photo: Getty Images.
Sue Smith. Photo: Getty Images.

A stunning strike from Rachel Furness cancelled out Sue Smith’s opener in the FAWSL2’s top of the table clash.

The Keepmoat saw second-placed Belles host league leaders Sunderland in what proved to be an entertaining encounter in Doncaster.

Smith’s 13th minute strike from a tight angle put Doncaster ahead, however, a sublime counter attack from the visitors saw Furness power home the leveller in the 33rd minute.

The Belles started strongly, with Courtney Sweetman-Kirk keen to impress up front in the absence of striker Jess Sigsworth who was away on England World Cup duty.

And after two drilled efforts from Sweetman-Kirk were saved in the opening first minute, Gordon Staniforth’s side pounced on the Lady Black Cats soon after.

It came in the 13th minute, seconds after Furness saw her near-post header come back off the post.

The Belles broke to devastating effect and Smith guided a powerful effort into the far corner for 1-0.

Keen to restore parity, Sophie Williams saw a lob over Nicola Hobbs met by Belles captain Leandra Little who calmly cleared away the danger.

Reanne Thomas could have doubled Belles’ advantage from Sweetman-Kirk’s throughball, but she drove her shot into Rachel Laws who parried superbly for a 28th minute corner.

The Belles were then made to rue their missed chances as an error in attack saw Sunderland break with Furness - who netted in Sunderland’s 2-0 cup win over Doncaster back in May - and she rifled the 33rd minute equaliser into the top corner.

Sunderland began the second half well abut without an end product and the Belles were also keen for a more clinical edge as Millie Bright and Ashleigh Mills came on for Lauren Cresswell and Thomas to add some bite into Doncaster’s play.

But neither side gave much away in a feisty second half as the match finished on level terms to keep table-topping Sunderland two points adrift and Doncaster chasing that elusive promotion spot.

Belles: Hobbs, Cunningham, Little, Lipka, Smith, Sweetman-Kirk, England, Thomas, Williams, Roberts, Cresswell. Subs: Govier, Johnson, Bright, Mills, Purfield, Johnson, Knight.

Sunderland: Laws, Beer, Greenwell, Wilson, Bannon, Furness, McDougall, Ramshaw, Bass, Kelly, Williams. Subs: Alderson, Sharp, Briggs, McHugh.