Classy Court­ney steals spotlight

BELLES STAR EYES TOP TIER

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Jamie Holt

WHEN Fran Kirby swapped Read­ing for Chelsea in July, it was a ground­break­ing mo­ment for women’s football – but it also rocked Court­ney Sweet­man-Kirk’s world.

Over the past sea­son and a half, Kirby had lit up the sec­ond tier of the Women’s Su­per League, scor­ing an as­ton­ish­ing 35 goals in 22 games for the Roy­als.

Dis­rupted

She was the only player from WSL 2 who trav­elled with Eng­land to the World Cup and her per­for­mances had Ar­se­nal, Manch­ester City and Chelsea – who even­tu­ally stumped up a Bri­tish record fee – clam­ber­ing for the 22-year-old’s ser­vices.

Yet her move to the FA Cup win­ners left a void to fill for the rest of the league and Don­caster Rovers Belles striker Sweet­manKirk has gone about mak­ing her con­tri­bu­tion.

Ten goals in 13 games last sea­son was hardly a shoddy re­turn, but her cam­paign was dis­rupted by a mid-sea­son move from Notts County.

This term, she has blown away the rest and, with a pro­mo­tion bat­tle to fo­cus her mind, she’s keen to add to her 14 goals and fire the Belles to the top tier.

“I’ve been very happy since join­ing Donny, but the big thing for me has been hav­ing a full pre­sea­son be­hind me,” said Sweet­man-Kirk, who moved to York­shire in June 2014.

“I joined mid­way through the sea­son and didn’t have that match sharp­ness I’ve had this time round. I was pleased with my re­turn in 2014, but hav­ing played re­ally well in the friendlies build­ing up to this sea­son it has made a big dif­fer­ence. You can see that in the goals re­turn.

“I en­joyed my time at Notts County, but it was time to move on. I wasn’t get­ting enough game time. I held my own, but I’m con­fi­dent I have the abil­ity to make it in WSL 1 and I’m up for the chal­lenge.

“Fran Kirby has proved it and I was ec­static for her when she got the move to Chelsea.That serves as a bit of an in­spi­ra­tion to ev­ery­one in WSL 2.

“It’s also tes­ta­ment to the fact the gap is clos­ing be­tween the leagues, and I be­lieve it will con­tinue to do so.”

With two pro­mo­tion spots up for grabs, it would re­quire a ma­jor slip-up from the Belles or Read­ing – or a re­mark­able run of form from third-placed Yeovil Town – to usurp the cur­rent pace­set­ters.

In depth

De­spite an eight-point cush­ion over the Glovers, Sweet­man-Kirk re­fuses to take any­thing for granted, but the for­mer Le­ices­ter and Coven­try City for­ward doesn’t mind plan­ning ahead.

“There’s a great mix be­tween the young girls and the ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers we’ve got, but it’s al­ways good to add to it and, if we do go up, we’ll be look­ing to do that,” she added.“We need to see the job through now.

“I say it time and time again, but I wouldn’t be in this po­si­tion with­out my team-mates. It’s not all about one player, it’s not even about the start­ing XI, it’s about the en­tire squad and we’ve shown we have great strength in depth.”

Sweet­man-Kirk, who has also ap­peared for Eng­land at Un­der23 level and won gold with Team GB in the 2013 World Univer­sity Games, works as a sport de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer at War­wick­shire Col­lege.

And she was grin­ning from ear to ear when she clocked in this week.

“It was cer­tainly a bet­ter Mon­day in work,” she added af­ter net­ting a hat-trick against Ever­ton last Sun­day.“A few of the girls keep a tab on me and it’s great to be able to go in hav­ing played well!

“Luck also plays its part. My third goal was a mishit. Maybe a sea­son or two ago that wouldn’t have gone in, but that’s what hap­pens when you’re full of con­fi­dence.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

SALUTE: Don­caster’s Court­ney Sweet­man-Kirk cel­e­brates scor­ing against Durham

IN­SPI­RA­TION: Fran Kirby cel­e­brates scor­ing dur­ing her Read­ing days

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