Courtney Sweetman-Kirk was in irresistible force as she netted a hat-trick in an entertaining victory over Oxford United Women that sends the Belles to the top of WSL2.
Reading are now three points behind Doncaster, albeit with a game in hand, as Glen Harris’ team continue their assault on the promotion places.
Doncaster were the better side from the start despite some good Oxford spells, and Sweetman-Kirk went tantalisingly close to opening the scoring after just four minutes, but was just unable to reach Lauren Cresswell’s excellent cross from deep.
But the Belles didn’t have to wait long for their first goal, with Sweetman-Kirk rounding United keeper Demi Lambourne before squaring for Bethany England to tap home.
The ball was in Lambourne’s net again two minutes later, but Sweetman-Kirk was judged to have strayed offside as she moved into position to receive Sue Smith’s cross.
Doncaster continued to have plenty of territory but it was Oxford who got the next goal to equalise, with Katherine Nutman touching past Nicola Hobbs from close range after Kayleigh Hines returned a half-cleared cross.
United left winger Holly Pickett gave the Belles a scare moments later, hitting the post after another decent Hines effort.
It took Donny a little while to settle back into the game as Oxford grew in confidence, but Sweetman-Kirk settled a few nerves three minutes before half time with a sumptuous lob, from Sophie Barker’s superb through ball, over the top.
England limped off with an ankle injury shortly after the break, but was able to return to the field in time to see Cresswell clear Hines’ header off the line.
Sweetman-Kirk could have had three goals in as many minutes late in the second half, but two out of the three was enough to give her a hat-trick and the Belles a three goal lead.
The first was a wonderful strike to the far post from the corner of penalty box on 73 minutes, and though she missed an opportunity seconds later, she made no mistake as she found the bottom corner after rounding Lambourne on 76 minutes.
A defensive mix-up at a corner allowed Oxford to pull the score back to 4-2 four minutes later.
But substitute Sophie Stamp bagged her first senior goal within a minute of her introduction, chipping into the unguarded net after Lambourne was forced off her line to deny Kasia Lipka.
Oxford United Women Goal Scorers: Nutman , Stanley
Doncaster Rovers Belles Goal Scorers: Sweetman – Kirk 43′,73′,76′, Stamp 84′, England 9′
Oxford United: Lambourne, Meade, Bruce, Osborne-Ricketts, Lane, Hines, Nutman, Franklin-Fraiture, Pickett (Low 66), Stanley, King (Allison 66). Subs not used: Cox, Chivers, Timms.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Hobbs, Lyndsey Cunningham, Rhiannon Roberts, Leandra Little (Sam Tierney 77), Lauren Cresswell, Sophie Barker (Sophie Stamp 83), Jade Lorton-Radburn, Kasia Lipka, Sue Smith, Bethany England (Emily Roberts 66), Courtney Sweetman-Kirk
Subs not used: Nicole Dale, Hope Knight, Molly Johnson, Reanne Thomas
On Thursday 23 July the Belles take on Manchester City in the Continental Tyes Cup at the Keepmoat, whilst Oxford are at home to Yeovil Town.
Report courtesy of Doncaster Rovers Belles