Doncaster Rovers Belles manager Emma Coates believes her side will emerge next season all the stronger after their relegation from FA Women’s Super League 1 was confirmed with a 2-1 home defeat to Notts County.
Coates is confident that she can build on the Belles’ squad over the winter in order to bounce back into FA WSL 1 at the first time of asking.
“We’ve learned lessons this year so that if we come back up we’ll do it the right way, the Belles way and learn from what we’ve done wrong,” she said.
“Maybe we’ve been naïve in the past but we didn’t come up as champions, it’s even tougher coming up in second and we had a big turnover of players over a short space of time. I want to keep this team together and build something long term.
“Rebecca Rayner for example is going to have a really long, successful career and Carla Humphrey got the goal she deserved.
“We’ve got to get it right next year, it’s exposed what we’ve done well but what we’ve got to strengthen too.”
The Belles came into the match knowing only three big wins would save them and they started on the front foot, Arsenal loanee Humphrey sliding them in front with less than ten minutes on the clock.
But as happened against Sunderland last month and Liverpool last week, a spirited Belles side went into the break behind despite taking the lead.
The home side failed to clear Jo Potter’s free-kick and Whelan lashed home after Anna Moorhouse denied Jade Moore.
Moments later some individual brilliance from Clarke saw the striker cut in from the left and curl an inch-perfect effort beyond Moorhouse into the top right-hand corner.
Chances were few and far between in the second half, and the Belles’ fate was sealed as they were unable to unlock the Lady Pies’ defence.
Goal-scorer Clarke said: “We’ve had a few injuries which hasn’t worked in our favour but the players have stepped into different roles have done a great job, everyone’s worked together and getting the win helps us moving forward.
“Credit to the Belles, they made it very tough for us and they gave it their all but we’ve grafted and got our reward with two goals in the first half.
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