Arrive Alive Womens Premier League Review
Match of the Round
Sutherland Sharks v Central Coast Lightning
The Sutherland Sharks and Central Coast Lightning got their Arrive Alive NSW Womens Premier League season started with an exciting but frustrating draw at the Harrie Dening Centre on Sunday.
The two sides finished the 2007 season poles apart with Central Coast Lightning finishing second in the premiership standing whilst The Sharks were left holding the wooden spoon.
The off season has brought many changes with Central Coast Lightning having only three players remaining from last season?s 1st grade squad.
The oldest player in the side that took the field today was only 18 years of age so the 2008 season shapes as a challenge for this youthful team.
The Sharks themselves have a number of new faces. Sunday?s game was the new squad?s first major outing together so there were plenty of question marks over just how the team would gel.
The game got off to a bright, open start with both sides testing each others defences. However, Sutherland soon started to assume control and pushed forward repeatedly on attack.
This early pressure, after good lead up work from striker Maggie El Hussieni, saw shots on goal from both Amy Hand and Nadia Haimson.
The Sharks were certainly testing the mettle of the young Lightning squad but the Central Coast girls displayed plenty of grit to stay level.
In the 14th minute great work by Amy Hand and Nadia Haimson led to a shot by Kylie Stabb which sailed over the bar after taking a deflection.
From the ensuing corner Jenai Shearer flew above the pack only to hit the crossbar with her header.
The rebound was then put over the goal by the Sutherland attackers. Soon after more good lead up from Sutherland saw Maggie El Husseini find room but her shot went straight to Lightning keeper Sam Butler.
Central Coast attacking raids had become few and far between but in the 18th minute they broke quickly from defence before a pin point cross found Ashleigh Morris in the Sharks 18 yard box.
Ashleigh was harassed by the Sharks defence and put her shot wide of the goal. Central Coast tried hard to mount some pressure but the Sutherland defenders always seemed to have the right answers.
In the 20th minute The Sharks once again pushed forward.
Their passing game was quite fluent and led to another opportunity for the dominant Amy Hand. Amy?s long distance shot, however, went straight to the keeper.
Soon after the scrambling Lightning defence closed down a dangerous Maggie El Housseini in the 18 yard box before a confident call for hand ball by the Sharks players was denied by referee Peta McCallum.
More scoring chances to Sharks players Kylie Stabb and Shellee Gibson followed but the radar on the girls shooting boots was a little off with the shots going high and wide of goal.
The Sharks midfield of Hand, Gibson and Todd were running the show and continued to create chances for their team mates.
The best opportunity of the half came off a Lightning mistake from defender Tamara Myers who was dispossessed on the edge of the penalty area by El Husseini.
The Sutherland striker ran at goal and tried to chip keeper Sam Butler who was equal to the task and saved the day. Butler was doing a fine job for her side and, nearing half time, pulled of a marvellous reflex save from pint blank range after a Sharks free kick.
Central Coast finished the half with a flurry.
In injury time the Sutherland defence made a rare error, failing to clear a Lightning attack which led to Central Coast?s Kirstyn Pearce running toward goal with her shot deflecting off a Sharks player for a corner.
A succession of corners led to Central Coast finding the net only to have a free kick awarded against their players for pushing.
This late surge by Central Coast, after a half where they were continually under pressure, would have given them great heart for the second period. Sutherland?s dominance had not been rewarded by any goals and Coach Michael Michael would have been a trifle frustrated to see the 0-0 scoreline at the break.
The Central Coast resurgence seemed set to continue straight after the break with fine passing by Lightning leading to a shot by striker Morris which brought a brilliant save from Sharks keeper Carlie Dreves.
However, soon after, The Sharks started to gain the ascendancy again with Haimson having two goal scoring opportunities.
Lightning attempted to counter again though good work by Shorter, Swinfield and Oliveira but the 16th minute of the half saw The Sharks El Hussieni make a fine, sidestepping run into the area only to have Butler deny her once again.
A loose clearance gave Amy Hand a second bite at the cherry but her shot went wide of goal.
This set up a period of control for Sutherland which led to further goal scoring chances for Haimson and Hand.
Central Coast pulled of some courageous last ditch defence to survive. The Sharks girls were wondering just what they had to do to put the ball in the back of the net.
Central Coast were having difficulty clearing their line and maintaining possession in their own half which was leading to continued pressure on their defenders.
The Lightning youngsters had their moments with replacement Ellyse McNally shooting wide and high in the 37th minute of the half but the best scoring chances seemed to be coming Sutherland?s way.
Sutherland?s Jenai Shearer came into her own in the second half causing the Central Coast plenty of problems with her bursts down the right flank.
Jenai was involved in some good linking passing with Hand and Gibson and put a shot over the bar late in the half. However, the full time whistle blew with the teams sharing the points after a 0-0 draw.
Both Coaches expressed an amount of satisfaction with the result.
Whilst disappointed that his team couldn?t convert at least one of their many scoring opportunities Sutherland Coach Michael Michael was pleased with the way his side combined in their first competition game together.
Michael was particularly impressed with the manner in which his midfield of Amy Hand, Jodi Todd and Shellee Gibson controlled the match. He described the performance as an ?all round good effort?.
On the other side of the fence Central Coast Coach Scott Howison commented that it was always good to leave Sutherland with a point.
Considering the youth and inexperience of his side he was pleased with the team?s effort.
Howison doubts that, under the circumstances, we can expect his side to match the results of 2007 but is hopeful of the young team developing through the experience of a season in the elite competition of the Arrive Alive NSW Womens Premier League.
He mentioned Tamara Myers as a fine performer for Central Coast on the day along with their energetic keeper Sam Butler.
Despite the lack of goals this was an entertaining match up. How both teams will fair during the season is hard to assess.
The Sharks certainly appear to have a good passing game which is built on their strong midfield line up.
Their inability to put away their chances may prove their Achilles heel however. A consistent goal scorer will improve their chances considerably.
Central Coast may well be in for a tough season but their young team showed in this season opener that they don?t lack for courage.
The expectations appear very low key for this side but the experience they gain from this competition will stand them in good stead for the future. I?m confident that they?ll be responsible for an upset or two before season?s end.
In other matches in the Arrive Alive NSW Womens Super League Manly United FC 5 thrashed newcomers Sydney University 1, Last season?s Minor Premiers/Premiers Macarthur Rams went down to a rampaging Marconi side 5-0 whilst 2007 Grand Finalists NWS Koalas trounced Penrith Nepean United 5-1.
Some interesting results there which certainly signal the premiership intentions of a number of sides in the 2008 competition.
The Arrive Alive NSW Womens Premier League is certainly off to a flying start with the promise of an exciting season ahead.