In their second fixture of the Continental Cup, Durham were beaten 3-1 by Doncaster Rovers despite producing a fantastic performance in the second half that saw them produce some of their best play to push Doncaster all the way.
Doncaster’s first came in the 20th minute when Sue Smith converted a penalty before they doubled their advantage with a diving header from Emma Johnson. Caroline Dixon scored for the Wildcats with a fantastic corner before the killer blow late in the second half when Doncaster scored another penalty through Jess Sigsworth.
The opening 10 minutes of the tie saw Doncaster string a number of chances together, the best falling to Millie Bright who’s drilled effort after Sue Smith’s layoff crashed into the side netting.
Just before the 20-minute mark it was Doncaster who took the lead when they were awarded a dubious penalty after Kate Bradley was judged to have pulled back Smith in the box. The referee pointed to the spot, booked Bradley and Smith duly obliged to give the Belles a 1-0 lead.
Zoe Ness almost looked to have scored an equaliser for the Wildcats when her well-stuck shot from 35-yards when Nicola Hobbs in the Doncaster goal got her hand to it to send it out for a corner.
Bright could have easily added another goal to her name several times during the first half but another on the half hour mark saw Danielle Hill comfortably gather her weak effort.
Doncaster continued to dominate possession and during one period sent a number of dangerous crosses into the box that evaded Smith were eventually cleared by Durham’s defence.
Half-time and Doncaster lead 1-0.
The second half saw the Belles come out of the firing blocks but it was a fantastic acrobatic save from Hill that denied substitute Jess Sigsworth at point-blank range after she met a cross whipped in by Lauren Cresswell.
Hill looked to have done enough when she came out quickly to push Sigsworth wide but the attacker played the ball back to Smith who’s cross was met by the diving head of Emma Johnson.
There was an instant response from Durham with Ness and Ellie Christon who found Beth Jennings before she played in Ness but her shot was well saved by Hobbs.
It only seemed to spur the home side on and they continued to play some of their best football this season. The combination of Ness and Rosie Young upfront saw the two play a lovely one-two and it was Ness’ shot from a tight angle that crashed into the post.
Young almost got her foot onto the rebound only for Doncaster’s defence to turn the ball away for a corner. The resulting corner in the 70th minute taken by Jess Round hit the post before Caroline Dixon got the final to make the score 2-1.
There was a distinct difference in the Wildcats play, the goal had brought out a strong confidence in the home side who continued to pursue an equaliser and Ness found another of her shots well held by Hobbs once again.
There was late drama in the second half when Doncaster won another penalty converted by Sigsworth that knocked the stuffing out of the home side to seal the victory and continue the Belles unbeaten run.