Only one game was left standing, that being the Macarthur Rams versus Sutherland Sharks match at Lynwood Park. Guess which game got Match of the Day status then?
On paper this didn?t look like the tough encounter it turned out to be. The Sharks came into this match having lost eight games in a row.
They occupied seventh spot on the competition table, only sitting above Central Coast Lightning on goal difference. The side?s inability to score goals has been a stumbling block for them this season; The Sharks can certainly create plenty of chances but have difficulty putting them in the back of the net.
Macarthur Rams, on the other hand, hold second place on the ladder with their most recent difficulties coming from suspension and injury. With Renee Cartwright and Sigrid Manty still missing with long term injuries, The Rams have been robbed of some of their firepower. Still, the defending Premiers are a determined side who?ve found a way to battle through regardless.
The match began sensationally with Sharks defender Jenna Flight almost opening the scoring in the first moments.
The only problem was that Jenna?s goal would have been for Rams rather than The Sharks. In attempting to defuse a Rams attack Jenna tried to head the ball out but succeeded only in forcing Sharks goalkeeper Carlee Dreves to pull off a fine reflex save. The resulting corner also stretched Dreves to the limit as she tipped the ball over the bar. Another corner and more mayhem for the Sutherland defence before Adriana Michael cleared the ball off the line. This looked an ominous start for the struggling Sharks.
The Sharks put together an opportunity of their own almost immediately though with a fine run by Maggie Elhusseini. The Sharks striker then laid a nice ball off to Cara Blake whose shot flew straight to Rams keeper Carla Montforte.
In only the fifth minute, however, a touch of Kylie Ledbrook class saw The Rams take the lead. After being put into space Ledbrook dribbled through, turned, cut left to drop two defenders before slotting the ball in the back of the net. No wonder this young lady is considered one of the stars of the Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Premier League!
This heralded a period of dominance by Macarthur with Stephanie Haim causing the Sutherland defence plenty of headaches. Two fine runs were not matched by the quality of Haim?s shooting however with The Rams striker shooting over the bar on the first occasion and wide of the mark with the second.
The Sharks were battling to hold the Macarthur girls at this time with Ledbrook, Lauren Abela and Nicole Winley creating various attacking opportunities. In the 22nd minute Stephanie Haim benefited from some of this play, setting her up for another shot at goal, which hit the post. It wasn?t looking like Stephanie?s day!
Defensively The Rams were being well served by Captain Danielle Brogan. Brogan pulled off two magnificent tackles in succession to steal possession inside the Sutherland half before releasing Kylie Ledbrook on a run at goal. Ledbrook?s shot though was rather meek and sailed wide.
Sutherland?s goal scoring chances up until now had been few and far between. In the 31st minute however some good lead up work by the busy Maggie ElHusseini and Shellee Gibson saw Cara Blake blaze a shot across the Macarthur goal mouth. Was this a sign of things to come?
The Rams hit back immediately though with a free kick from Kylie Ledbrook finding Haim at the back post. Haim?s fine header zeroed in on the post however and Stephanie was denied again!
The Sharks fashioned an attacking raid from defence with a misunderstanding in The Rams goal leading to a near miss for Sutherland. The ball then flew wide to Shellee Gibson who centered the ball back into the goalmouth. Keeper Montforte?s dive only deflected the ball to the feet of Sutherland?s Julie Todd who taps in for the equalizer. Suddenly, despite all of Macarthur?s scoring chances, it?s 1-1.
The Rams didn?t seem to take this setback with much grace, immediately surging back into attack. Kylie Ledbrook steals the ball after a mix up in The Sharks defence. Ledbrook raced downfield before unleashing a powerful shot, which is brilliantly saved by a diving Carlee Dreves.
Within moments Stephanie Haim breaks and sends a great pass to Nicole Winley inside the Sutherland box. Winley hits the pass on the volley but her shot lacks power, going straight to keeper Dreves.
The half time whistle blows with the two sides locked together at 1-1.
The second half starts in a manner sure to bring some extra grey hairs to Sharks Coach Michael Michael.
A poor Sutherland goal kick falls to Stephanie Haim whose shot from 25 metres just misses.
The Sharks then turned over possession meekly from the following goal kick allowing Lauren Abela to dash into shooting range before putting her opportunity wide. Kylie Ledbrook was in total control of midfield and soon after released Haim yet again. This time, however, Haim?s first touch was too heavy, allowing The Sharks a chance to close down the danger. Macarthur certainly appeared to have come out of the dressing sheds with a restored focus.
In the 50th minute that focus produced dividends with a nice cross into The Sharks box finding an open Lauren Abela who turns and shoots, beating the keeper to give Macarthur a deserved 2-1 lead.
At this stage most spectators may have been expecting The Sharks side to give up but The Shire girls are made of sterner stuff. Within two minutes Sutherland equalized after a great Katie Hilder pass released Kathryn Pryer down the right flank.
Pryer?s precision cross, in turn, found Maggie Elhusseini who tried to wriggle free of the defence. Vanessa Mann released a shot for Sutherland, which The Rams defence attempted to clear. They succeeded only in deflecting the ball back to Maggie Elhusseini who pops the ball into the back of the net. Suddenly The Sharks have visions of breaking their run of outs.
Danielle Brogan of The Rams receives a yellow card soon after for a solid body check on Maggie Elhussieni.
The Sharks appeared to have gained confidence from their second goal. Suddenly their attack took on a much more dangerous sting that looked capable of finding them a possible winner.
Stephanie Haim still looked The Rams player most likely to decide the issue, as she is involved in a number of half chances in the ensuing minutes. Haim shoots wide from distance, over the bar with another and then deflects a powerless header, which falls to the Sutherland keeper. Surely something had to give for Stephanie eventually?
A disastrous moment occurs for Macarthur in the 70th minute when Kylie Ledbrook is yellow carded for a foul on Maggie Elhusseini.
This means that Ledbrook will now be suspended for next weekend?s top two clash with NWS Koalas. Cara Blake of The Sharks then got her own match memento with a yellow card for a tackle on Nicole Winley. Referee Jo-Anne Livingstone was being kept busy by these two sides, neither of whom was willing to give an inch.
Ledbrook didn?t allow her misfortune to get her down and soon bamboozles the Sutherland defence before bringing a save from keeper Dreves. The save deflects off the cross bar to present Claire Walsh with a chance which she puts high.
Cara Blake and Maggie Elhusseini continued to combine well, creating an opportunity for the former whose shot from outside the box found keeper Montforte. Haim then bobbed up again inside the box for Rams but her shot balloons wide of goal. The game had become quite an arm wrestle.
In the 82nd minute Lauren Abela made a run inside the Sutherland penalty area. Defender Adriana Michael cleared the ball but hooks Abela in her follow through, bringing The Rams player to the ground. After a slight hesitation the referee pointed to the penalty spot, giving The Rams the chance to regain the lead. Up stepped Stephanie Haim who?d hit everything bar the back of the net up until this moment. Haim is deadly from the penalty spot though and had little trouble in converting this chance. Macarthur are back in front 3-2.
Despite the best efforts of both sides this remained the final score on the day with Macarthur retaining second place on the ladder while The Sharks slump to their ninth loss in a row.
Macarthur Coach Matt Turvey felt that his side had put in an ordinary game. ?We were lucky to get away with the points. We have lots of injuries at the moment and are getting by any way we can.? Turvey mentioned that the side hoped to have Renee Cartwright back for next week?s game with Koalas.
Sutherland Coach, Michael Michael, comments that his girls have improved. ?We can?t seem to buy a win at the moment. Michael feels that his team has claims to being unlucky to walk away from this game without any points.
This proved to be a very entertaining match. The Sharks should be proud of their gritty effort but one always had the impression that The Rams would find a way to come up with the winner. It?s the sign of a good side when you come up with a win despite not playing at your best. Both sides should take some positives from this match.
Macarthur Rams 3 (K.Ledbrook, L.Abela, S.Haim)
Sutherland Sharks 2 (J.Todd, M.Elhusseini)
All other Arrive Alive NSW Women?s Premier League matches this weekend were washed out. The games have been postponed until a date to be fixed.
-By Ross Anderson