- Laura Rafferty puts Albion ahead against league leaders
- Umotong goes close to doubling advantage in the second half
- Seagulls inflict Doncaster Rovers Belles' first league defeat of the season
- Hope Powell’s side make a winning start to life at their new home ground
Brighton & Hove Albion ran out impressive 1-0 winners against Doncaster Rovers Belles in FA WSL 2 on Sunday afternoon at the Checkatrade Stadium.
A first half goal from Laura Rafferty was the difference between the two sides on a warm afternoon in West Sussex, as Hope Powell’s side inflicted a first defeat of the league season on their visitors.
Albion made a bright start to the game and Ini Umotong twice went close for the home side, before Albion were rewarded for an enterprising opening after nine minutes.
A corner from the right-hand side wasn’t cleared by the Doncaster Rovers Belles defence, and it allowed defender Laura Rafferty to fire into the top corner from inside the area and give the hosts an early advantage.
Albion remained compact in defence and looked threatening on the counter attack – Aileen Whelan skipped past two challenges and got to the edge of the area before her touch was too strong, before Kate Natkiel fired at goal from long range and saw the effort held by Bethan Davies.
The home side’s good work off the ball continued, as the visitors were forced into a few mistakes in possession, owing to the work-rate of Powell’s team.
Sophie Perry combined well with Chloe Peplow to work space for a cross just after the half-hour mark, but the visitors cleared as the ever-dangerous Umotong was in close attendance inside the area.
Both Kate Natkiel and Umotong drew Davies into further saves as the game approached the break, but the referee brought the half to a close with Rafferty’s goal the difference at the interval.
Natkiel had Albion’s first chance of the second half but was crowded out as she reached the edge of the area, before Davies got to a ball over the top just ahead of Umotong as the striker continued to threaten on the break.
Hourihan had some routine catches in the home goal, but the second period was far quieter than the first, as both sides visibly dropped their respective tempos after a fast-paced first half in hot conditions.
Jessica Sigsworth headed over for the away side from a deep corner as the contest entered the final 20 minutes, before Umotong had the half’s best opening soon after as she raced away from Leandra Little and bore down on goal, but with just the goalkeeper to beat she fired narrowly wide of the far post.
Rebecca Rayner then went close for the visitors when her free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Hourihan – it forced the Albion goalkeeper to tip the ball up and over the bar and luckily for the hosts the danger was averted.
The Seagulls saw out the rest of the half well to seal an eye-catching victory that moves them onto 28 points and pushes them seven behind the visiting side at the top of the table.
Albion line-up: Hourihan, Rafferty, F. Whelan, Perry, Peplow, Barton, Buet, A. Whelan, Gibbons, Natkiel, Umotong.
Subs not used: Gillet, Ashton-Jones, Nilden, Ritchie, Legg, Somes, Hartley.