Doncaster Belles: Ready to burn after Reading

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (l). Photo: Julian Barker
Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (l). Photo: Julian Barker

Gordon Staniforth believes his side are beginning to hit their best form of the season as they head into their crucial clash with promotion-chasing Reading.

The Belles have netted 12 times in their last two games - thumping London Bees 7-0 and most recently Oxford United 5-1 - as they continue to keep the pressure on FAWSL2 leaders Sunderland.

And with the Lady Black Cats dropping points last weekend - after Reading held them to a 1-1 draw - Belles chief Staniforth believes now is the perfect time to hit a rich vein of form.

“We haven’t peaked yet but we’re going into a period of play where we’re doing everything right and we’re getting good results,” he said.

“We seem to have overcome our couple of setbacks after the league’s break and we’ve got some strong results under our belts because our hard work is paying off.

“We were very good against Oxford on Sunday, particularly in the first half.

“I told the team at half time against Oxford that they were playing like a top-flight team because they absolutely were.”

Staniforth, a former league striker himself in the ‘70s and ‘80s, was particularly delighted with the performance of Belles forward Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.

The capture from Notts County earlier this year stung London Bees with a brace before collecting a hat trick during the Oxford triumph where versatile midfielder Tori Williams also netted a double.

Staniforth believes Sweetman-Kirk’s goalscoring form will only continue to haunt opposition defences.

“Courtney has been fantastic,” he said.

“She came in to provide good cover for Jess [Sigsworth] who was away on World Cup duty [with the England U20s] and she’s just got her head down and worked really hard.

“We knew she had it in her to score the goals she’s getting.

“She’s brimming with confidence after her five goals in two games now and that will only get better.

“She was the missing piece in the jigsaw at the beginning of the season in my eyes.

“Now she’s here, she’s working hard, has settled in well and her work-rate is really infectious. She never stops running and working for the team.”

The Belles take another trip down the M25, this time to Farnborough FC’s ground where third-placed Reading will be their hosts tonight (6pm).

And Staniforth feels his side are more than prepared for the tough challenge that their Berkshire-based opposition will provide.

“Reading are a strong team, they’re certainly no walkovers,” he said.

“I went to watch their game on Saturday against Sunderland so I got to really see what they were about.

“The trip to that game on Saturday has proved invaluable this week.

“The information I took away from the game has been vital for our pre-match preparations.

“We’re heading into this game well prepared.”