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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 10:46 GMT
Belles back in business
England's Karen Burke (right) tussles with Anita Rapp of Norway
Burke, one of nine England players in the Belles' squad
BBC Sport's Sue Thearle meets Doncaster Belles manager Julie Chipchase, keen to avenge the disappointment of last season when they lost the title by a single point.

It's been business as usual for the Doncaster Belles this season.

Eight matches have brought 8 victories, the latest of which came last weekend when they beat Barry Town 5-0.

With games in hand on leaders Arsenal, the Belles look determined to avenge the disappointment of last year when they were pipped to the title by Croydon and a single point.

We started sluggishly but now we've really hit out stride
  Julie Chipchase

"It's been a funny season really," says manager Julie Chipchase.

"We started quite sluggishly, then got going and then had to sit on the sidelines when lots of games got cancelled because of the weather.

"But now we've really hit our stride and I feel really pleased with the way things are shaping up.

"But it's not a two-horse race. Arsenal are very strong again this year and Charlton haven't played anything like as many games as the rest.

"I know they've got a new set-up down there, but I think they could come strong so it's not cut and dried at all."

Becky Easton
Easton: 'Tough tackler'

The Belles are certainly a formidable prospect as Barry found out last weekend.

With Gillian Coulthard enjoying an Indian summer in a new defensive role, Chipchase has significantly strengthened her squad this season and it's paid off.

Debbie Bampton arrived from Croydon during the summer, aided and abetted by the double coup of signing Becky Easton and Karen Burke from Everton.

Add the return of Joanne Broadhurst to all that, and it's easy to see why the Belles are flying.

"I felt we needed something a little bit different after last season," admitted Chipchase.

"We were so disappointed to miss out on the league in that way that I wanted to add a little extra to the squad and that's what these girls bring.

Karen Burke
Burke: 'Extra skill'

"Joanne is a real battler and a huge character. Karen has that bit of extra skill while Becky is a tough tackler. They all bring different things to the team, but it's really helped us."

The extra quality also comes at a price.

The Belles had 9 players at Hope Powell's England get-together in Peterborough this week.

It meant they had to change their regular training session to allow the girls to return home and have a rest.

But far from being a hindrance, Chipchase sees it as a bonus.

"Credit to the players for getting picked. They've all worked hard and deserve it. I don't think it's a distraction for them.

"Far from it, it's fantastic and it's a terrific incentive for the other players at the club to work hard and get selected as well."

Ground shift

Success on the field is also being counter-balanced by progress off it.

The club had a meeting this week with Doncaster Council about a proposed move to a new 1.6 million stadium at Tollbar Bentley.

If all goes according to plan the Belles will be in their new home in 18 months' time.

And that's just in time for the proposed launch of the professional league.

"We're all really looking forward to that," confessed the Belles boss.

"I've always wanted to be a professional manager. And if it helps me achieve that goal, I'd be very happy indeed."

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See also:

14 Jan 01 |  Football
Belles hell for Barry Town
22 Dec 00 |  Football
Millennium makeover
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