Doncaster Rovers Belles suffered an early FA Cup exit on home soil at the hands of Bristol Academy yesterday.
Belles, again without star midfielder Sue Smith who is nursing a calf injury, were undone by strikes in either half by Academy duo Corinne Yorston and Ann-Marie Heatherson in the fifth round encounter held at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The visitors adapted well to the difficult, muddy conditions as Heatherson saw a header sail wide of the target within the first 15 minutes.
Jess Sigsworth, playing a lone striker role for the Belles, caused Bristol problems with her pace down the left flank, but Doncaster failed to find that killer pass to trouble Academy keeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
Bristol continued to press on the counter and proved more clinical in the final third - their pressure finally paying off when skipper Yorston collected the ball from her corner to curl a sublime left-footed effort over Nicola Hobbs for the 22nd minute opener.
Three minutes later Sigsworth created a half-chance for herself on the edge of the area as the Belles looked for the leveller, however, the youngster fired her effort wide of Chamberlain’s right-hand post.
Returning Belles shot-stopper Hobbs then had a moment to forget when she was involved in a mix-up with her defence in the box - a goalmouth scramble to clear the danger eventually saving her blushes.
The mercurial Laura Del Rio Garcia was proving a tough challenge for the Belles to dispel as Lyndsey Cunningham mis-timed her tackle, bringing the Spain international down on the edge of the area.
Del Rio Garcia curled the resulting free-kick over the wall which crashed off the bar with 35 minutes gone.
Del Rio Garcia was more than a handful with her free role in midfield as she once again cut inside from the left, and drove at the Belles’ byline only to lash a powerful strike over the bar.
The hosts came out in the second half intent on getting back into the game and had a glorious opportunity to equalise two minutes in when a well-worked move involving Beth England and Victoria Williams released Sigsworth who flashed a drive inches wide across Chamberlain’s goal.
Despite the Belles enjoying the better possession and carving out a couple of half-chances, Bristol struck once more when Doncaster’s attempt to play the ball out in their own half saw Heatherson eventually pounce on a Hobbs parry at the far-post in the 55th minute.
England’s deliveries caused Bristol some problems and in the 57th minute the midfielder’s set-piece found the impressive Millie Bright in the area - her header falling the wrong side of the post.
England then drove a free-kick just inches past the upright after Emma Thomson drew a foul on the edge of the area.
Belles boss John Buckley brought on 16-year-old right-back Ashleigh Mills, the reserves player’s first outing for the first team, and the youngster enjoyed a few runs down the channel as Belles continued to search for a goal to reduce the deficit.
With the last 15 minutes of the match remaining, the pacy forward Sigsworth then found a yard of space, however, looped her effort past the far post.
Bristol continued to press and retained the ball well as the final whistle condemned Belles’ FA Cup hopes this term.
Doncaster Belles next face Chelsea at home at the Keepmoat on Saturday in the Continental Cup. Kick-off is at 6pm.
See this week’s Doncaster Free Press (out every Thursday) for all the reaction to Sunday’s match and also the impending visit of Chelsea.