A record-breaking crowd of more than 1,000 was at the LNER Stadium as Lincoln City Women opened the 2022/23 season with a seven-goal thriller against Doncaster Rovers Belles.
City started brightly and Chantelle Robinson scored the first goal for the Imps of the season after seven minutes. Leah Hardy snapped up the ball in the middle field, passed it to Robinson who ran through the middle before she chipped the ball into the bottom left corner.
Six minutes later Jess Rousseau fired the Imps into a 2-0 lead. After a long ball from City’s defence, Rousseau got control over the ball in the box, turned and slammed it past Ellie Sharpe in Belles’ goal.
The pressure from City continued as Abi Ringrose sent the ball to Rousseau in the box but she was not able to get control over it.
Rousseau sent a header went just wide of Belles’ goal as she looked to double her tally for the game.
Thirty minutes in and the Belles earned a free-kick on City’s side, but the Imps cleared the ball and sent a cross field ball to Rousseau which yet again had loads of room over on the left side. Belles’ defender snapped up the ball and sent it out the side line.
After continuous pressure from City, the visitors gained a big chance as Nadia Khan ran behind City’s defence and got the ball, but her shot was right on newly signed keeper Poppy Irvine.
The Belles had another opportunity as Olivia Harness fired over from 20 yards.
Hardy attempted for a third goal in the 37th minute as she shot from distance, but her effort went over the bar. TheBelles responded by playing up on their left side before sending a long ball to Sophie Brown who sent her effort wide after finding herself one-on-one with Irvine.
Brown was determined and right before half-time she found herself through on goal. This time her endeavour was rewarded as she sent the ball past Irvine.
There were no changes at the break, and City started off the second half with chances Rousseau and winger Wilcock.
City’s defence was strong in the first period of the second half and they didn’t let any of Belles’ efforts get in the net even with the away game constantly pushing.
On a run down the right downside in the 62nd minute, Robinson was tackled by a Belles defender and earned a free-kick outside the box. The free-kick was taken by Maddi Green which was blocked by the away team.
The visitors were awarded a penalty after Nadia Khan and City defender Tilly Fantom battled inside the area. Belles’ captain Jess Andrew took the ball and went to the penalty spot, finishing calmly it into the bottom right corner to level the score.
Both sides felt they had an opportunity to win the match, with Hardy thinking she had done just that with a stunning free-kick from 30 yards out which went into the top right corner leaving Sharpe with no chance.
A second penalty for the visitors in stoppage-time gave them an opportunity to draw level again, with Andrew again stepping up to send Irvine the wrong way.
And, four minutes into time added on, Halima Essa snatched the winning goal to seal a dramatic three points for the visitors.