Whilst the two leading sides, Illawarra Stingrays and Western NSW Panthers have grabbed a break on the pack the battle for the other top four spots began to heat up last weekend. Inter Lions and Northern Tigers scored their first wins of 2008.
They will be looking to maintain the momentum now they have the lure of major spot on the competition ladder. Wash outs have stalled the rise of a couple of sides, most especially Blacktown Spartans, but the weather report for this weekend says all systems go for all teams to play football this weekend.
This week?s match of the round will be the Gladesville Ravens versus Northern Tigers game at Peel Park. Gladesville remain undefeated. Last weekend?s match against Blacktown was washed out but Gladesville sit third on the ladder with plenty of good judges tipping them to have a big say in the finals later in the year. Paul Wade has his girls playing a structurally sound and disciplined style of football. This weekend sees only their second home game of the season so Ravens will be looking to put on a strong performance for their local fans.
The Northern Tigers breakthrough win last weekend over Southern NSW FC will have been a significant confidence boost for the girls from the north west. Their hopes of making further strides up the competition table will be sorely tested by a talented Ravens side. However, one taste of success is often the forerunner for a run of wins. Tigers will certainly be banking on that being the case with their side. A closer game than expected but it?s hard to go past Gladesville in this one.
The South Coast Derby takes place at Ison Park. Southern NSW FC have not had a very encouraging start to their season. Whilst they have been very competitive in most of their matches Southern are yet to pick up any points. Meeting an Illawarra side coming of a 15-0 rampage against UNSW hardly seems the recipe for a sudden resurgence from the local girls. Will the ?derby? aspect draw a better performance from Southern?
Illawarra have looked championship material in the first four rounds. The Stingrays have goal scoring talent across the park, highlighted by the ?Michelle Twins?, Carney and Heyman, a strike pair who?ve been dominant in every match. How Southern will be able to closed down Illawarra?s various attacking options is difficult to say. It?s been a task beyond every other side that Illawarra have met so far this season. The form book says that Southern are unlikely to be the side to upset the apple cart at this stage.
UNSW host Inter Lions at David Phillips Field. UNSW are coming off a forgettable afternoon against Illawarra Stingrays where 15 goals were put past their struggling defence. UNSW have also missed quite a bit of football through washouts and will be thankful to put two weeks of football together. Last weekend would have been a confidence destroyer but UNSW should be buoyed by the fact that they won?t be the last side to cop such a pummelling from The Stingrays. This week is a new match and the girls will need to lift their spirits.
Inter have suddenly found the right ingredients to get their season on track. A late equaliser by St George denied them all three points a fortnight ago but last weekend the Inter girls were in no mood to be denied by Bankstown Wildcats. Inter Coach Joe Baldacci has the team?s motor humming whilst star striker Catherine Cannuli showed signs of reaching match fitness with her first goal of 2008 last weekend. Recent form says Inter but the Concord girls will be warned not to approach the game in an over confident frame of mind.
Bankstown Wildcats play St George FC at Dunc Gray Velodrome. Bankstown Coach Fiona Kannengiesser must be wondering what?s happened in the last two weeks. After a very successful start to the season The Wildcats have suffered successive defeats against Illawarra and Inter Lions. Bankstown need to consolidate their position with a return to the winning list in this one.
The one blemish on St George?s record this season was their 8-1 loss to Illawarra in round two. Otherwise they have been very consistent. Whilst there may be doubts in some quarters about their ability to mix it with the top sides last weekend?s effort against undefeated Western NSW Panthers would appear to enhance their reputation as a tradesman like side with plenty of determination. Not much between these two sides but I think St George might prevail narrowly.
The final game of the round sees the Western NSW Panthers hosting Blacktown Spartans at Alec Lamberton Field. The Panthers have been in fine form so far this season. They are undefeated with their only slight stumble a 0-0 draw with Gladesville Ravens. They don?t rack up cricket scores in their wins but they do the job nonetheless. It?s significant that they are yet to concede a goal in four matches. There?s a lot to like about the Bathurst girls. Their season is building in a promising fashion.
Blacktown Spartans have spent more time under umbrellas in the last few weeks than playing football. They?ve experienced two washouts in four rounds. The girls will be keen to get a good run of football under their belts. The two games they?ve played have been tight affairs with a narrow loss to St George FC and a close win over Southern NSW FC. This will be a tough one for Bronwyn Jarvis and her team mates. The Panthers look contenders at this early stage of the season and I suspect they?ll retain their unbeaten record in this one.
Look for our round up of all matches, including the match of the round between Gladesville Ravens and Northern Tigers, on the Football NSW website this Monday. The Football NSW E Newsletter Player Interview this week will be with Macarthur Rams in form striker Renee Cartwright.
-By Ross Anderson