BARKER AND THE BELLES ALL SET FOR VI­TAL CLASH

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Kieran Theivam

DON­CASTER Rovers Belles mid­fielder So­phie Barker says the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude in the squad is the key to keep­ing them up as they go into a crunch game against Read­ing next week.

The Belles, who are still seek­ing their first points of the sea­son, wel­come the Roy­als to the Keep­moat Sta­dium on Satur­day in a must­win fix­ture that could see them close the gap on their op­po­nents to just three points.

De­spite en­ter­ing the clos­ing stages of the cam­paign, this is the first time the two will have met in the league this sea­son.

Don­caster have lost all ten of their matches so far, while Read­ing have picked up six points – all from draws – from 13 games. De­feat would put a nail in Don­caster’s cof­fin.

But Barker, who is one of the more ex­pe­ri­enced heads in the squad hav­ing played for Lin­coln and Notts County in pre­vi­ous cam­paigns, is con­fi­dent her side can pick up the vi­tal points needed. She said: “One thing that hasn’t changed all sea­son is the pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment at the club and the be­lief that we are go­ing to stay up.

“We look at the Read­ing game and be­lieve that we can win, but, im­por­tantly, we know we can­not drop points, be­cause it will make our job of stay­ing up very hard.”

Be­tween now and Oc­to­ber 30, the Belles play al­most a third of their en­tire league fix­tures, which is as­ton­ish­ing con­sid­er­ing the sea­son started in March.

While not us­ing it as an ex­cuse, the 25-yearold ad­mit­ted the dis­jointed fix­tures had made things dif­fi­cult.

“I think we’ve had it the hard­est out of ev­ery­one, and you can see that with how many games we have left,” she said.

“It’s hard to build mo­men­tum when you’re pre­par­ing for a game for three weeks at times, but now is a chance to build that mo­men­tum and pick up some much-needed points.”

The last time th­ese two sides met at the Keep­moat was in the FA WSL2 last sea­son, with Read­ing com­ing out tri­umphant by three goals to nil, and in­flict­ing the Belles’ only league de­feat of the sea­son in the process. With games home and away against the Roy­als in the com­ing weeks, Barker is con­fi­dent that sur­vival is still a re­al­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity, but knows her side will need to grind out re­sults else­where to make that a re­al­ity.

“We’re look­ing to get six points out of Read­ing, while we also play Notts County and Liver­pool, who we only lost out to nar­rowly, so we’re still pos­i­tive.

“We know it’s in our hands, we can’t lose next week, and that’s the men­tal­ity we’re go­ing in with.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

HUN­GRY: So­phie Barker

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