Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Super League Round 9 Review


Finally, the league?s two undefeated sides, Illawarra Stingrays and Western NSW Panthers, were to meet in the top of the table clash that promised so much. Which was more deadly; the Illawarra attack or the Panthers defence?
Whilst Sydney suffered from overcast conditions and rain beautiful Bathurst presented sunshine.
Of course it was cold enough to cause distress to a brass monkey but who cares when you?re at the football, right?
It was going to be a big day all round with these two clubs also running one/two in the Reserve Grade competition and the Club Championship. We came to the first grade game with both clubs having won two of the earlier games on the schedule. Who would grab bragging rights for the day?
The Panthers were obviously up for this game. They pushed forward to apply the blow torch to the Illawarra defence early. A Gillian Rosconi free kick tested The Stingrays followed by a solid shot from Annie Holiday after a poor Illawarra clearance. Holiday and Ashlieigh Sykes then combined well to open the defensive line but Sykes?s cross was astray. The Panthers certainly weren?t intimidated by their opponents.
A nice pass from Shannon Waine then released Gillian Rosconi who crossed from the left side of the field. Illawarra struggled to clear the danger having to endure multiple shots on goal by The Panthers before closing the attack down.
In the 12th minute Illawarra finally had a meaningful opportunity after a free kick was awarded about 30 metres from The Panthers goal on the right of midfield. Cassie Halloway placed the ball deep into the Panthers area where Panthers keeper Sarah Hunt fumbled. The Stingrays tried to take advantage but, after some confusion, the defence were able to clear their line.
Now Illawarra started to gain some momentum but they were finding it much harder to pierce the Western NSW defence than any other they?d met this season. Carney and Heyman were again dominant for the visitors in this period, with major contributions also from Taryn Ruiz and Christie Akid.
In the 21st minute a nice exchange of passes between Ruiz and Heyman led to a strong shot from the latter which went straight to The Panthers keeper. Waine then dispossessed Ruiz near half way. Waine fed the ball to Sykes who breaks on the right before her attempted cross goes astray. 
The Stingrays then had successive opportunities through a free kick after Carney was fouled and a corner. The Panthers defence is able to comfortably subdue both attacks. Ruiz then combined with Caitlyn Danyi to produce a shot on goal but the effort sails wide. Soon after, Ruiz swaps from the left to right of midfield.
The Stingrays usually reliable defence appears to be struggling to hold The Panthers. They look to be in disarray on a number of occasions but poor finishing by Western NSW fails to take advantage of the confusion.
With their usually dominant attack also being stifled The Stingrays are looking flat. A moment of swift passing movement between Erica Halloway, Taryn Ruiz, Christie Akid and Michelle Heyman gives a flash of what Illawarra can do but it comes to nothing when The Stingrays are unable to muster a meaningful shot at goal. Worse still Heyman then goes down injured.
Whilst she eventually gets to her feet and continues Michelle is walking gingerly and battling to stay in the play. An ominous sign for Illawarra.
Sammie Wood and Ashlieigh Sykes are causing plenty of headaches for The Stingrays with their expansive running. A wood shot on goal hits the back of a Stingrays defender. Erica Halloway then made a great run out of defence for Illawarra before she lost possession in attempting to set up Heyman.
The half ended with both teams trying to grab the initiative but a scoreless first half is the result of this absorbing arm wrestle.
Heyman succumbs to her injury at half time and is replaced by Jessica Cooper.
The Panthers start strongly after the break. Grabbing possession from Illawarra the locals burst upfield through Sammie Wood and Gillian Rosconi with a cross from the latter being cleared for a corner by defender Danyi.
Soon after Panthers player Jodie Davies is yellow carded by referee Tony Wilds after a wrestle with Erica Halloway. Is this the secret to Coach Paul Waines success at Western NSW? Does he follow the lead of all NRL clubs and employ a wrestling coach?
The Panthers then break away though Sykes who release Holiday. The Panthers star cuts into the Stingrays penalty area but her low shot is well held by Stingrays keeper Gollop. Play then goes through a period of end to end play as both sides attempt to gain ascendancy. Another yellow card is awarded, this time to the previous ?victim? Halloway after a foul on Shannon Waine.
In the 63rd minute Gillian Rosconi breaks from halfway after a rebound. She storms into the box with only the keeper to beat but her shot is comfortably taken by keeper Gollop.
Two minutes later though The Panthers finally hit pay dirt. Sykes gets away from the defence near half way. She cuts back inside, shoots, GOAL. It?s 1-0 to The Panthers. Defender Caitlyn Danyi is yellow carded for dissent and then replaced by Talitha Kramer. This causes a reshuffle for The Stingrays, with Jessica Cooper moving into defence whilst young Kramer takes on an attacking role.
Kramer?s influence is immediate as she bursts clear, passes to Carney who turns, shoots but fails to get any real power on the shot. It?s held high above her head by keeper Hunt as The Panthers survive a scare.
Illawarra seem to respond to The Panthers goal and start to push forward. In the 67th minute Illawarra are awarded a free kick on the edge of the Western NSW box after Carney is fouled. Up steped Carney who hit the ball sweetly, right into the top right hand corner of the goal. Its game on at 1-1!
Now both sides are pressing for a winner. Rosconi makes another break for The Panthers but loses her footing as she bears down on goal. A shot by Kramer for Illawarra is held by keeper Hunt at the near post.
In the 76th minute Talitha Kramer turns nicely and shoots. It must be a goal but, no, it hits the underside of the crossbar and stays out! An escape for The Panthers. The locals respond though with Sykes racing away again. Her shot brings a tremendous save from Stingrays keeper Gollop. This is a game befitting a top of the table clash.
Moments later Rosconi makes a run for The Panthers. She evades a defender, turns and shoots. It?s a goal! This seemingly comes from nothing and The Panthers are back in front. The Stingrays replace Tina Siskoska with Jayde Cunningham.
The Stingrays don?t give up, quickly going in search of an equaliser. After a foul by Wood Illawarra have a free kick but Cassie Halloway is unable to repeat her earlier heroics. An 84th minute corner is then brilliantly fielded above the pack by Panthers keeper Sarah Hunt. She also defuses a short corner from The Stingrays.
In the 88th Minute Michelle Carney dribbles across the line from the left corner of the field but her shot then flies high and wide. That?s Illawarra?s last opportunity and referee Wilds blows the final whistle, giving Western NSW Panthers a great 2-1 win.
Panthers Coach Paul Waine is ecstatic. ?Bloody brilliant? is his assessment of the win. He applauds a great team effort. He says that the team worked hard on a strategy to play this game and it had paid off. Waine feels his defenders, Katie Holden and Jodie Davies, deserve praise for their effort in closing down the dangerous Stingrays strikers.
Darren Sewalt of The Stingrays is circumspect. He says that his team finally met a side who were willing to stand up to them. Wallin reflects that this may well be a turning point for the competition with the Illawarra ?invincibility? tag now gone. Wallin praises The Panthers on their effort. His own team have received a wake up call. He feels that Michelle Carney was outstanding for his side. He compliments Panthers star Rosconi on her effort as well.
An upset? Hmm, hard to gauge. Illawarra had looked invincible until now but The Panthers came to play today and were too good. A fine game of football between two well matched sides. I can?t wait for round 2 of this battle at J.J.Kelly Park.
Western NSW Panthers 2 (A.Sykes, G.Rosconi)
Illawarra Stingrays 1 (M.Carney)
The competition table took on any interesting look over the weekend with some close results.
Third placed Gladesville Ravens struggled to get past Bankstown Wildcats at Peel Park. It took an 87th minute winner from Courtenay Parrott to grab all three points for the home side. The Wildcats put up a spirited performance. It will be tough for the girls from the south west to get so close to at least a share of the points before being pipped but they should take plenty of positives from their effort.
Gladesville? Well, they obviously kept working for the full 90 minutes; a trait that Coach Paul Wade admires about them. The win kicks them clear of the pack in third place but they need to lift to match the competition leaders.
Gladesville Ravens 1 (C.Parrott)
Bankstown Wildcats 0
Southern NSW FC continued their climb up the ladder, now moving into fourth spot with a harder than expected win over UNSW. Southern grabbed the lead after Cobb scored in the fifth minute; an advantage they held until half time. In the 59th minute UNSW came up with an equaliser through Stang and an upset looked on the cards. However, ?Golden Boot? Katie French popped up just three minutes later to put the locals back in front. Southern held this 2-1 lead until full time.
Southern have certainly hit form at the right time for a clash with competition leaders Western NSW Panthers next weekend. The first round clash was a 2-0 win for The Panthers. Southern will be out for revenge by making Western NSW?s stint atop the ladder a very short one.
Southern NSW FC 2 (E.Cobb, K.French)
UNSW 1 (G.Stang)
Blacktown Spartans caused something of an upset, not just by toppling fourth placed St George but by slamming six goals past them. Blacktown hadn?t caused much of a ripple on the surface of the competition up until now. This was a game they had to win to keep their season alive. They certainly rose to the occasion here with a dynamic win. With five individual goal scorers The Spartans certainly showed that they can match it with anyone on their day.
St George would have gone to Cook Park in a confident mood but will have walked way wondering what hit them. They now drop out of the top four but, with the condensed nature of the competition right now, they don?t lose too much ground.
Blacktown Spartans 6 (N.Crompton 2, E.Connell, K.Gregier), C.Simpson, B.Jarvis)
St George FC 1 (A.Hill)
The final game of the round saw the clash of the big cats; The Lions and The Tigers. These two sides blotted each other out in the first half after a burst of rain turned the field into a skating rink. Both sides tried hard to set up play but were unable to finish their opportunities.
Good lead up work by Caridad, Cannuli and Scarlato eventually led to Stephanie Haaring opening the scoring for Inter in the 62nd minute. Both teams continued to arm wrestle from there before an 89th minute equaliser from The Tigers Rachael Lewis nabbed the visitors a share of the spoils. The result, coupled with a mid week catch up game win for The Tigers over UNSW, keeps both sides well in semi final contention.
Inter Lions 1 (S.Haaring)
Northern Tigers 1 (R.Lewis)
A great weekend of football in the Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Super League. The results confirm how open this competition is. Any team is capable of getting the result on a given day. For now, Western NSW Panthers are the Queens of the League. The challengers await their opportunity at the crown. 
-By Ross Anderson