Ahead of the start of the FA Women’s Super League 2 (FA WSL 2) Spring Series, Richard Laverty previews each team.
Last year was a disaster for Doncaster: their return to the top division was blighted by internal issues that would see their on-field form affected to the point where the Belles went into the final game of the season without a single point on board.
A last-day win at Reading spared a certain number of blushes and now it’s time for the Belles to rebuild under Emma Coates and try and make a return to FA WSL 1 at the first time of asking. Technically, they already have a win under their belt this season after Watford couldn’t fulfill their FA Cup tie last weekend but Coates will be hoping to see improvement once they hit the pitch for real on Sunday.
Where to Belles
Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Emma Coates is the youngest manager in the FA WSL after taking over from Glen Harris halfway through last season. A former coach at Leeds United, Coates had a tough welcome to life in management last season with the Belles struggling at the bottom of the table.
The young left back instantly performed as one of Doncaster’s best players last season after arriving on loan from Liverpool during the summer break. Despite her age, Pacheco showed maturity in her performances and it was one of the coups of the winter that Doncaster has managed to bring her in on a permanent basis.
During a tough season, Simpkins was consistently one of Doncaster’s better performers and never let her effort dwindle no matter how dire the situation got. One of the first signings on for the new season despite relegation, Simpkins can play a variety of positions and will be key to Doncaster’s hopes of promotion come 2018.
Last year was probably the toughest of Sweetman-Kirk’s career. The striker tore up FA WSL 2 as Doncaster won promotion in 2015 but a broken leg in a behind-closed-doors friendly put pay to her top-flight season after it had only been going a few games. Back from injury with a point to prove, Sweetman-Kirk’s goals will surely return once the season gets underway.
One to Watch
The young attacking midfielder was put into the Doncaster first team toward the end of last season as Coates began preparing for life in FA WSL 2. Starting against Liverpool, the teenager showed no fear in running with the ball, utilizing her skill to cause defenses issues. While an injury has set her back slightly over the winter, there’s no doubt Rayner will play a big part once she’s fit and ready.
You could argue Doncaster has been doing the kind of business they should have been doing 12 months ago, but better late than never. As mentioned earlier, Pacheco is a huge coup while young striker Kirsty Hanson comes with a point to prove after leaving Sheffield. Sophie Walton has also joined after leaving Notts County and the club has tied down several players to new contracts.