Doncaster Belles’ inexperience showed as they slipped to a 9-0 home loss to Blackburn Rovers.
Blackburn have won this division in both of the last two seasons but been denied promotion, and they gave this young Belles side – all of whom were making their debuts – a harsh lesson on the standard they will need to reach in this league.
The Belles’ young side found themselves five goals down at the break, with Saffron Jordan opening the scoring for Blackburn after just nine minutes, and Natasha Flint made it two just six minutes later off a ball over the top.
Lagan Makin and Kayleigh McDonald each struck within three minutes of each other as champions Blackburn put the result beyond doubt.
Lyn Shepherd rounded out the scoring for the first half on 38 minutes, looping an unstoppable header into the far corner from a Blackburn set piece.
Belles manager Zoey Shaw made both personnel and tactical changes at the break, bringing on Ellie Parkin in place of Emily Burgin as the Belles moved to three at the back.
That held back the tide for a while, but Blackburn’s superior conditionin and much greater experience lead to them extending the lead yet further in the final 21 minutes.
Jordan scored twice more either side of Makin’s second to secure herself a hat-trick, with McDonald and Shepherd also completing braces in the final five minutes.
Belles: (4-2-3-1): Emily Batty, Emily Burgin (Ellie Parkin 46), Holly Dodsworth, Georgia Marshall, Lois Scholefield, Ashleigh Edwards (Emily Cahill 75), Sheldon Ashton, Zoe Belding, Chloe Bethell, Aimee Hickingbotham (Imani Todman 61), Abby Watkinson
Subs not used: Chloe Gray, Isabella Trevillion