Amazing Grace strikes on return with Bristol Academy
MARK Sampson hailed the fighting spirit of his Bristol Academy side after substitute Grace McCatty grabbed a dramatic last-gasp winner to settle a roller-coaster clash at the Stoke Gifford Stadium.
Doncaster twice fought back from behind and looked to have sealed their first point of the season in the FA Women's Super League when Bethany England scored from a 25-yard free-kick with a minute of normal time remaining.
But McCatty marked her return from a four-game ban in dramatic style, steering home the winner two minutes into stoppage time after skipper Corinne Yorston had set her up from Jess Fishlock's free-kick.
"To concede a goal so late on but then score the winner right at the death showed great character," said Sampson. "This group of girls are a tough bunch and they don't give in. I was delighted for Grace because she's been out so long. If anyone deserved it, she did."
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McCatty had initially picked up a three-game suspension after a controversial red card in the 4-1 win at Liverpool on the opening day of the season, although it was then extended after the Vixens lost an appeal against her dismissal.
"I worked out that my ban lasted 42 days, so I couldn't have asked for anything more than to come back and score the winning goal," she said.
All of the goals came in an eventful second period with comparatively few clear chances before the break – although Doncaster had the best of them.
A neat exchange of passes near the edge of the box in the 16th minute put former Bristol player Katie Holtham through on goal, but keeper Siobhan Chamberlain came out well to deny the Belles' skipper.
The visitors, playing a high defensive line, allowed the home side little space, and the Belles had a couple more opportunities as the interval approached.
First, Leanne Little headed wide from Aine O'Gorman's corner, and shortly afterwards Chamberlain had to make another good stop to prevent O'Gorman firing the Belles in front.
Bristol hit the post through Ann-Marie Heatherson soon after the break and then took the lead when Fishlock – who had another outstanding game – turned the ball home from 12 yards after Nikki Watts had cut in from the left.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Kasia Lipka equalised eight minutes later with a freak goal. The Doncaster midfielder tried her luck with a speculative effort from 40 yards which dipped just in time to drop into the top corner as Chamberlain back-pedalled in vain.
Mary Earps made a good one-handed save to keep out Mel Lawley's 25-yarder soon afterwards as Bristol pressed to try and regain the lead, and Fishlock was inches away from her second goal with a dipping shot from 30 yards which just went over the top.
Heatherson restored the home side's advantage 13 minutes from time, rising to meet Yorston's cross and steer home an excellent header from 10 yards – and then hit the woodwork again with another header from Fishlock's corner in the 84th minute.
It looked like Doncaster had salvaged a point when England beat Chamberlain from 25-yards in the dying moments – but there was still time for McCatty's dramatic late decider.
Bristol Academy: Chamberlain, James (McCatty 66), Rose, Yorston, Harding, Fishlock, Windell, Dykes (Culvin 87), Lawley (Green 79), Heatherson, Watts. Subs (not used): Simkins, Curson, Isaac.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Earps, Little, Oxtoby, Cunningham, Chadwick, Lagonia (Russell 82), Lipka, Holtham, O'Gorman (England 74), Bright, Sigsworth. Subs (not used): Sowerby, Hills.