Getting to know: Abby Watkinson

We took some time to get to know Belles forward Abby Watkinson.

Belles’ philosophy is to help young players develop and break through to first team football. How do you feel your own development is going under Zoey?

Since being at Doncaster and playing under Zoey’s management I have grown into a more confident player. I am more vocal on and off the pitch and I feel like my overall performance has improved massively and is more consistent.

What’s your most memorable moment of the season so far?

The most memorable moment of the season so far was when we won 4-1 against Guisley Vixens as it shows that all the effort and hard work we are putting in is paying off.

The whole team and club just had a real buzz about us as it showed that we are able to compete in this league even though we are a young squad.

Who’s the joker in the squad?

Izzy Whittle and Sheldon Ashton.

Do you have any match day rituals?

I don’t really have any match day rituals no.

Who or what inspired you to start playing football?

My family have always been into football and growing up my dad and my grandad got me into playing.

If you could play in any football match what would it be?

If I could play in any match it would the World Cup final, as it’s one of the biggest audiences there is, all of the country watching and cheering on.

Do you have a favourite player?

Lionel Messi – his skill and talent is unreal.

Do you have a message for the fans?

Thank you for coming to the games and supporting us week in and week out. We really appreciate all the support and hope to carry on our progress throughout the season.

And last the most important question. Is it okay to have pineapple on a pizza?

I’d have to say not sure as I’ve never tried it.

 

You can follow Abby on Twitter @watkinson_abby

Report: Guiseley 1 Belles 4

Four goals from three different goalscorers away to Guiseley Vixens gave Doncaster Rovers Belles a much-deserved first win of the season.

Donny were made to regret individual defensive errors against Nottingham Forest and missed chances in attack against Hull, but things finally came together to give Zoey Shaw’s side a 4-1 win.

Zoe Belding put Donny ahead on 25 minutes, going clean through on goal off a ball over the top and finishing superbly past former Belles keeper Bethan Davies.

Guiseley had an effort ruled out for offside seven minutes later, but when Liv Auker found the net for a second time on 50 minutes, the equaliser stood.

Belding doubled her tally to fire the Belles back ahead on 67 minutes, smashing a half-cleared cross into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Belles captain Izzy Whittle made it 3-1 eight minutes later, rising in the six yard box to convert a wonderful Sheldon Ashton cross.

Chloe Bethell rounded off the scoring with second remaining on the clock, producing an unbelievable finish at the end of a devastating counter-attack.

 

Belles: (4-4-2): Emily Batty, Lois Scholefield, Georgia Marshall, Liv Cook, Isabella Trevillion,  Zoe Belding, Sheldon Ashton, Izzy Whittle, Chloe Bethell, Abby Watkinson, Emily Burgin

Subs not used: Holly Dodsworth, Imani Todman, Ellie Parkin, Aimee Hickingbotham, Nadia Khan

Report: Belles 0 Hull City 2

Doncaster Belles were once again made to rue their missed chances as Hull City ran out 2-0 winners in the FA WNL Northern Premier Division.

Donny hit the upright three times, with Zoe Belding and twice Liv Cook going close, and Chloe Bethell forced the Hull goalkeeper to made a recovery to avoid being caught off her line – all that action coming in the second half.

But after an even first period, Hull went ahead 13 minutes after the break, with Ellice Jackman heading in Amy Blinkhorn’s near-post delivery from a corner.

Cook’s duo of chances followed shortly after from a corner at the other end, with the defender’s initial header bouncing back out off the underside of the bar and her follow-up shot hitting the post.

Hope Knight doubled Hull’s lead on 80 minutes, stretching the Belles back four with some smart cross-field passing that allowed Amy Kay to square the ball for an easy finish.

It continues a familiar theme for the Belles, who have indisputably improved hugely since their 9-0 defeat to Blackburn on the opening day, but too often look nervous in defence and rushed in attack, leaving them still looking for their first points of the season.

Report: Belles 1 Forest 3

Doncaster Rovers Belles put in an improved performance against Nottingham Forest but conceded too cheaply to get anything out of the game.

This was the Belles’ best chance yet to get their first points in the FA WNL Northern Premier League, with Forest winless since the opening day of the season, but they were unable to seize the opportunity.

Sophia Bonser put the visitors ahead less than a minute into the game, beating Emily Batty from close range after the Belles failed to deal with a cross from the right.

Donny skipper Izzy Whittle levelled things back up on 26 minutes, exploiting Forest’s dithering over Sheldon Ashton’s through ball to steal in ahead of the goalkeeper and score with her weaker right foot.

Batty was forced into action six minutes later, coming off her line superbly to smother Katie Middleton’s shot.

Another Whittle chance from a through ball – this time provided by Georgia Marshall – came and went, with the midfielder unable to direct the ball towards goal.

Forest fired a warning shot on 49 minutes, with Batty tipping Kelly Darby’s powerful header onto the crossbar.

Less than seven minutes later, Forest were 3-1 up. Charlotte Griffin got the first, the smallest player on the pitch going unmarked at a corner and directing a header into the far top corner.

A Lois Scholefield own goal gave them the other, with the defender unfortunate to turn the ball into her own net after Batty had again saved a Middleton one-on-one.

The Belles were given the chance to pull once back from the spot on 66 minutes after a Whittle shot was handled in the box, but Forest keeper Emily Hallam guessed the right direction and saved Emily Burgin’s penalty with ease.

Forest again hit the bar with a free kick on 75 minutes, with Bonser’s strike bouncing off the upright and over.

Whittle again proved herself an unlikely goal threat late on, forcing Hallam to tip a 20-yard drive away from the top corner and over the bar.

Belles v Forest this Sunday!

Nottingham Forest Ladies will visit the Belles on Sunday 30th September as the FA WNL Northern campaign continues.

Forest have been winless since the opening day of the season and visit the Belles on a five-game losing streak.

However, Doncaster are themselves on a poor run of form and are yet to pick up a league point.

This promises to be a captivating game, with admission priced at just £3 for adults and £1 for children at our Rossington Main home. Kickoff is at 2pm on Sunday 30th September.

We will have all the action on our Twitter account (@donnybelles) and a report online shortly after the game.

Report: Derby 4 Belles 2

Derby County held off a spirited Belles fightback in a topsy-turvy game to claim a 4-2 victory in the FA WNL Northern division.

Undefeated Derby fell behind to Izzy Whittle’s early stunner, with the skipper finding the net with a 25-yard peach just minutes into the game – the first time the Belles have led a game this season.

Jodie Redgrave scored a quickfire double midway through the half to put Derby 2-1 up midway through the first half, before hitting the post as County kept the pressure on.

Cara Newton made it 3-1 before the break with a dinked finish, but Belles fired themselves back into the game, with Nadia Khan scoring her first senior goal on the rebound from a Belles penalty.

Donny continued to push forward in search of an equaliser, but a Derby counter-attack allowed them to put the result beyond doubt, with Stephanie Smith scoring the final goal.

Report: Belles 0 Middlesbrough 2

Doncaster Rovers Belles’ wait for their first points of the FA WNL Northern season continues after they fell to a 2-0 home victory to Middlesbrough.

Boro put the Belles under pressure from the early going, and found particular joy attacking down the left through England under-19s’ Emily Scarr.

The winger forced a stop out of Emily Batty after five minutes, and the keeper saved well again from the resulting corner to deny Emma Brown.

Sarah Cramer opened the the scoring for the visitors after 32 minutes: Donny were unable to get Scarr’s ball clear, and the midfielder powered the ball into the top corner.

Belles hit their first shot on target just before the break, with Olivia Cook getting forward from centre-back and trying one from just outside the box, but Laura Wareham made a comfortable stop.

Middlesbrough succeeding in limiting Doncaster to long shots, with Georgia Marshall and Emily Burgin both testing out Wareham without success.

The visitors then doubled their lead midway through the second half, with substitute Eleanor Dale powering a header past Batty from a corner.

Scarr could have made it three just a couple of minutes later after going clear through on goal off a defence-splitting pass, but Batty came off her line superbly to smother the danger.

Belles substitute Nadia Khan created a couple of issues in response, first beating the Boro right-back to force a last-ditch tackle from a covering defender, and then volleying a difficult dropping ball wide from a corner.

But Donny were ultimately unable to find a way through, leaving them still looking for their first goal and their first points of the league season.

Belles: (4-2-3-1): Emily Batty, Imani Todman (Holly Dodsworth 46), Olivia Cook, Izzy Whittle, Lois Scholefield, Georgia Marshall, Sheldon Ashton, Abby Watkinson, Chloe Bethell (Nadia Khan 62), Zoe Belding, Emily Burgin

Subs not used: Chloe Gray, Ellie Parkin, Ashleigh Edwards

Whittle: ‘Let’s get cracking!’

Doncaster Rovers Belles captain Izzy Whittle hopes that dressing room’s positive spirit can inspire the side to their first points of the season in Sunday’s league clash with Middlesbrough.

The Belles sustained heavy defeats in their first two FA WNL Northern encounters, but there were plenty of positives to take from their last outing as Donny took Chorley to penalties in a 2-2 draw – with both goals coming from Whittle.

“We need to get cracking in the league,” she said.

“We’ve not had the best start but we’re still in high spirits. We’re together, we’re upbeat, we’re positive, and we just need to start getting some results. We’re doing it in training, it’s just not quite transferring to the pitch yet in matches.

“It’s a matter of learning to sustain our good spells and start quicker. We don’t seem to start fighting until we need to fight, when it would be great to be on the front foot from the beginning. We’re looking to get out of the blocks quickly against Middlesbrough on Sunday.

“We were talking about it the other day in the changing room and we’re not inexperienced as a unit. We may be young but lots of us have played for years and years.

“There’s other teams in the league that are sort of the same age, so it’s not really an excuse to say ‘we’re inexperienced, we’re young’; we know what we should be doing, we just need to start doing it.”

After being unavailable for our season opener, Whittle has gone the distance in both of the Belles’ last two games, including playing the full 120 minutes in last weekend’s cup clash with Chorley.

That game went all the way to sudden death in a penalty shootout after Whittle twice equalised from set pieces

The shootout went Chorley’s way, meaning the Belles narrowly missed out on progress to the next round and will now play in the FA WNL Plate.

But Whittle is keen to take the positives out of that improved performance, saying:  “I missed the first game and obviously Stoke wasn’t the result we wanted. Chorley was better, it was a fight. We came so close and it hurts to go out on penalties.

“It felt great to get my first couple of goals. I didn’t realise until I saw it on Twitter afterwards that we’d equalised so late on, so that was ace. It feels good to get some goals.”

The first of Whittle’s double came courtesy of a dominant header, with the captain rising high in the box to nod into the Chorley goal.

That led General Manager Sheila Edmunds to compare the captain to her predecessor and fellow centre-back Leandra Little, who led Donny to the WSL2 trophy last season, scoring twice along the way.

Whittle said: “Obviously I was here while Lea was captain and I’m just trying to emulate what she did, in terms of the sort of stuff she did in training, the way she prepared for matches, and obviously being a big centre-back scoring headers at corners as well!”

“Playing every week, and sometimes twice a week, is really good. It’s a competitive league as well, and it’s good to get some minutes. We’re starting to get a bit of team cohesion, but we need to see that translating into more complete performances.”

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The Belles take on Middlesbrough in the FA WNL Northern Division at Rossington Main on Sunday 9th September – kick off is at 2pm.

Tickets will be £3 for adults and £1 for children and can be purchased on the gate.

The ground can be found at Oxford St, Rossington, DN11 0TE. Details on parking at the ground can be found here.

Shaw: ‘We need to fight from start’

We spoke to manager Zoey Shaw following Sunday’s penalty defeat to Chorley in the FA WNL Cup determining round.

Izzy Whittle scored a pair of equalisers to force the game to extra time, but the side ultimately went out on penalties and will now compete in the FA WNL Plate.

Shaw: “I think we got off to a bit of a slow start and that’s something the girls and I will have to work on. We need to come out of the traps from the off because if not we concede and we’re chasing the game.

“But I think we did well to get ourselves back into the game. We did well with our attacking set pieces with Izzy to get the first equaliser, and then we started to play football, but the moral of the story is it was a little bit too late in the 90 minutes.

“We grew into the game and I was saying to the other staff on the bench that when we’re in a fight and there’s something on the line like when we get into the last ten minutes and we’re trailing or there’s going to be penalties, that’s when we step up and play our best football.

“But the girls have got to find something within themselves to get that from the start and that’s going to be our focal point for the next couple of sessions in training.

“I said to the girls after the game we have no excuses: everyone’s back, there’s nobody missing. But what I was impressed by was the desire to keep going.

“Chorley are a good side. Just because they’re in the fourth tier, they’ve played together for many years so they know where each other are on the pitch. They’re capable of quick football, and they’ve got that experience, and our girls are gaining that.

“I’m not going to keep saying ‘they’re young’ or ‘they’re going to learn’, because they play football just like anybody else. It’s just about playing themselves in the next game.

“Liv Cook had an outstanding game, as did Emily Batty. That save she made on that penalty, it was going in all day. Izzy Whittle had a good game and I thought Emily Burgin, when she came on straight from the RTC, for a player of her age, she rose to the occasion. She changed the game when she came on, and if players can do that then we’re doing something right.

“I said to the girls that I wasn’t disappointed in their performance, just in the result, that it went that way towards to end, because with penalties it’s anyone’s game.”

Report: Belles 2 Chorley 2 (3-4 pens)

Doncaster Rovers Belles will continue on into the WNL Plate after losing a penalty shootout to Chorley FC.

The Belles twice had to come from behind in normal time to force the game to go the full distance, with captain Izzy Whittle bagging a brace from a pair of set pieces.

Chorley then squeaked through in the shootout to book their place in the next round of the WNL Cup.

The visitors first took the lead after 11 minutes via captain Laura Walker’s perfectly-struck penalty, awarded after Holly Dodsworth felled a Magpies attacker in the box.

The Belles’ best opportunities of the first half came from set pieces, with Whittle nodding a corner well wide of the post on 23 minutes.

The captain went close again 13 minutes later from another corner, unleashing a shot to the bottom corner after Chorley failed to get it clear.

Chorley keeper Rachel Darbyshire tipped that effort wide, but was unable to do anything about Whittle’s header from the resulting corner as Donny scored their first goal of the season.

The visitors levelled things up again on 59 minutes, with Rebecca Kemp driving in from the right touchline and putting a surprise shot past Emily Batty from out wide.

Just as in the first half, the hosts grew into the game as time wore on, particularly after Zoey Shaw switched from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 midway through the half.

That allowed the Belles to ramp up the pressure, with substitute Emily Burgin going clean through on goal six minutes from time but shooting narrowly wide of the post under pressure from the onrushing Darbyshire.

Having scored her first-ever senior goal earlier in the game, centre-back Whittle bagged her second in injury time, scrambling the ball home from point-blank range after yet another dangerous Belles corner.

Burgin put a header on goal four minutes into stoppage time after Georgia Marshall’s long throw was flicked on to her, but Darbyshire made a vital save to force the game to extra time.

Grace Vella narrowly missed Chorley’s best chance of the extra 30 minutes, curling the ball just wide of Batty’s post, and Whittle headed yet another corner into Darbyshire’s arms.

Chorley striker Scarlett Smith had a wonderful chance to prevent the game from going to penalties, but after barging her way past a Belles defender she dragged her shot wide of the far post.

Both Walker and Whittle saw their sides’ opening kicks in the shootout saved, and Vella put Chorley ahead after Darbyshire stopped Sheldon Ashton’s effort.

Marshall, Abby Watkinson and Belding all scored for the Belles, with Lisa Topping and Smith doing likewise for Chorley.

Rebecca Kemp then blazed what could have been the winning penalty over the bar for the visitors well over the bar.

But Darbyshire saved again to deny Burgin in sudden death, and Megan Season made no mistake in reply to put Chorley through to the next round of the Cup.

Belles: (3-5-2): Emily Batty, Holly Dodsworth (Imani Todman 73), Izzy Whittle, Olivia Cook, Zoe Belding, Georgia Marshall, Sheldon Ashton, Ellie Parkin (Ashleigh Edwards 59), Lois Scholefield, Chloe Bethell (Emily Burgin 77), Abby Watkinson

Subs not used: Nadia Khan, Aimee Hickingbotham