Doncaster Rovers Belles: ‘Pressure got to us’ says Buckley

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Doncaster Rovers Belles manager John Buckley admitted his side played “under pressure” in the first half of their 0-0 stalemate with Lincoln Ladies.

Belles currently sit at the bottom of the Women’s Super League just a point adrift of seventh-placed Lincoln as the pair faced in a crunch match at Sincil Bank last night.

The visitors were under fire in the opening stages of the game as ex-Belles forward Carla Cantrell threatened in the 5th and 9th minutes of the game and Jess Clarke saw a couple of strikes and header saved by former Imps star Nicola Hobbs.

Doncaster’s best chance came when Ashleigh Mills raced clear and curled an effort goalwards forcing towering Imps keeper Karen Bardsley into a save at full stretch.

A vast improvement from Belles in the second half saw chances fall to Cheryl Foster and impressive substitute Nicky Emery.

Clarke was also a constant threat for the hosts and Cantrell continued to try and force the opener.

Despite a frenetic final few minutes, neither side could break the deadlock in a game which Buckley admitted they could have won if they had had a better first half performance.

“I was disappointed with our first half, we didn’t retain the ball well and it looked like we were playing under pressure and were desperate for our first three points,” he told the Free Press.

“That pressure we put ourselves under showed in our performance in the first half, we just needed to settle down more so I was disappointed with that. But there was a marked improvement in the second half.

“We kept the ball well and created chances but just couldn’t find the breakthrough.”

Buckley paid particular tribute to his defensive backline - missing regular right-back Beth England due to concussion - for coping with the strong forces of Cantrell, ex-Doncaster player Precious Hamilton and Clarke.

He said: “I thought Ni (Naomi Chadwick) and Lyndsey (Cunningham) were fantastic at the back. Leandra Little and Tori Williams are forming a great partnership too, they complement each other well.

“Leandra made a mistake against Everton (which led to Nikita Parris’ goal in the 2-2 draw last week) but she came back in this game (against Lincoln) and showed that she’s getting better every time and reading the play well, she’s a fantastic captain.

“I also though Ashleigh (Mills) put in another good shift and our other two youngsters (Jemma Purfield and Nicky Emery) were great too.”

Belles now have two months off as part of the WSL’s break to make way for the European championships.

See more in this week’s Free Press for the latest on Belles’ ‘relegation’ appeal, exclusive chats with ex-Belles legends and how Doncaster’s lawyers are offering their support.