Doncaster Rovers Belles 2
England (43 mins), Smith (55 mins)
Duggan (90 mins)
- Match reports
- 01 May 2014 21:41
- Posted by @roline_mcfc
Manchester City Women fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers Belles in the Continental Cup.
Despite dominating possession in the second half and creating a hatful of chances, the Blues couldn't recover from 2-0 down and left it too late to drag themselves back into the encounter with a Toni Duggan strike in the dying seconds.
Against a side full of confidence and flying high at the top of the FA Women’s Super League 2, Nick Cushing’s side anticipated a tough test. The affair contained added spice too with the hosts' obvious desire to prove a point, following their relegation from the top flight last year.
Throughout the game, the Blues were met with an intensely hostile atmosphere. Every City mistake was greeted with cheers and each time Doncaster ventured forward, the stadium was filled with the noise of bells from the stands in a bid to spur on the home side and unnerve the visitors.
Cushing's side went into the game on the back of three consecutive defeats but were handed a timely boost with the return of goalkeeper Karen Bardsley from injury. The England shot-stopper went straight into the starting line-up in place of Andie Worrall.
The home side started the brighter in the opening 15 minutes. Jessica Sigsworth’s pace down the right-hand side caused the Blues major problems throughout the clash but fortunately for the visitors, the home side’s first efforts on goal – both long-range shots from Millie Bright – did little to really trouble Bardsley.
Jill Scott had City’s first chance of the night on 20 minutes but her shot was deflected wide. The Yorkshire outfit then struck the bar with a curling free-kick from Lauren Cresswell, before Duggan tried her luck from 30 yards, only for her shot to fly into the arms of Nicola Hobbs.
Doncaster then thought they’d taken the lead just after the half-hour mark. When Sigsworth’s shot was deflected into the path of Sue Smith, the midfielder squared for Bethany England to tap home but the lineswoman had raised her flag for offside.
As the hosts continued to mount pressure, Bardsley was called into action to divert a corner before clawing away a Rhiannon Roberts header from the resulting set-piece.
The Blues then enjoyed a spell of possession, forcing a series of corners themselves. Four minutes before half-time, the away side almost broke the deadlock as Duggan raced clear down the right flank before crossing for Scott, whose effort dragged agonisingly wide.
Seconds later, Doncaster were awarded a penalty when captain Steph Houghton hauled England to the ground. Once the referee had pointed to the spot, the winger stepped up to convert – much to the delight of the Belles faithful.
City came out all guns blazing in the second half and almost found an equaliser within minutes. Duggan and Scott were involved again as the former sent the latter clear. Scott then cut inside before playing the ball back to the striker but just five yards out, Duggan mis-kicked her shot and it trickled into the grateful arms of the goalkeeper.
Flint then tried her luck with an effort that was well off-target before the home side doubled their lead against the run of play on 55 minutes. Sigsworth was again the instigator, sprinting down the wing before crossing for Smith, who volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
Immediately after the second goal, Cushing opted to make a double substitution, bringing on Krystle Johnston and debutant Abbie McManus for Marsh and Natasha Flint. In search of a route back into the game, City flooded forward in numbers but struggled to convert.
Six minutes after Smith’s strike, the Blues had a fantastic chance to pull a goal back. Under pressure from Duggan, Hobbs missed the ball, allowing the striker to burst forward. With no goalkeeper to beat and the Doncaster defence scrambling back, plus plenty of City support rushing forward, a goal looked certain but Duggan dallied and before the striker could pull the trigger, the Belles recovered to nip the ball away.
Isobel Christiansen then saw her powerful effort deflected wide and Johnston hit the post with a low drive. The Blues' night was summed up on 88 minutes when Scott’s drive was blocked by Hobbs. When the ball fell to Christiansen a yard out in the centre of the goal, somehow her effort ended up over the bar and the midfielder’s protests for a corner were ignored.
Johnston - who inspired a number of City attacks - also fired an effort straight at the goalkeeper before Cushing’s side grabbed a consolation goal in injury time. When Duggan found space in the area, the striker took a touch to compose herself before poking the ball past Hobbs.
It proved to be too little, too late though as Doncaster held on for the win to put themselves joint-top of Group Two.
The result was harsh on City but as the Blues continue their development, they can take plenty of positives from this encounter which on another day, would have ended with the result they deserved.