Some dominant performances from some contenders, some relief for at least one team and some star spangled efforts from some of the league?s most talented players.
Our Match of the Day coverage was the blockbuster clash of defending premiers Macarthur Rams and fourth placed Marconi Stallions at Lynwood Park. Whilst these two teams have a great deal of respect for each other off the field?..I think??they certainly don?t seem to like each other very much when the whistle blows to start the game!
This was a tough, hard clash with neither team giving an inch. It was obvious from the stand that a win in this one was of major interest to both teams, making for a fast, action-packed match.
The Rams started the match strongly, pushing forward at every opportunity. Whilst they worked hard to test the Marconi defence it was The Stallions who got the first meaningful shot at goal after a free kick in the opening minutes. Stephanie Haim then combined well with Renee Cartwright for the latter to present Rams with their first scoring opportunity but the resulting shot was wide of goal. Haim herself was the beneficiary of a nice through ball soon after that saw her burst into The Stallions area before shooting straight to keeper Fiona Ryan.
Marconi weren?t sitting back whilst all this was happening though. In the 7th minute a superb ball by Ash Connor sent Trudy Camilleri into the clear. Camilleri found herself one on one with Rams keeper Monique Jackson but calmly tucked away her shot on goal to put Marconi up 1-0.
Four minutes later the consistent Jodie Bain raised Marconi hopes again with a long distance free kick that brought an above the head save from Jackson. However, this chance heralded a period of Rams dominance where Kylie Ledbrook and Stephanie Haim came to the fore.
A Ledbrook free kick high into the Marconi box was misjudged by The Stallions keeper but Macarthur were unable to take advantage. Marconi?s Fab Perfilio was then taken to task by referee Leanne Smith after a tackle on Haim. The resulting free kick by Kylie Ledbrook found Danielle Brogan in front of goal but the opportunity is deflected off a defender.
Another foul from Perfilio followed two minutes later after she brought down Sigrid Manty but Stephanie Haim?s shot was wide of goal. Play tended to flow for a period with both sides trying to build a meaningful attack. In the 30th minute a free kick was awarded against Rams Captain Brogan after a solid tackle on Ash Connor. Connor and Brogan took the opportunity to exchange pleasantries. This obviously inspired Brogan who within moments makes a great run out of defence. Brogan served up a quality pass to Renee Cartwright who broke away down the right. Cartwright centres the ball, finding Ledbrook in front of goal. The Rams star?s attempted volley sails over the cross bar however. A passage of play that certainly showed why so many people think The Rams are the team to beat in 2008.
In the 34th minute Macarthur?s Annalise Baker put a nice ball through into the Marconi area. Hesitation by The Stallions keeper saw Renee Cartwright surge towards the ball. A jumble of bodies, a shot and, one way or the other, the ball was in the back of the Marconi net. The goal was credited to Cartwright. The Rams pressure is finally rewarded.
Almost immediately an error by Sigrid Manty in the Macarthur box saw Marconi grab possession. Melissa Links pounced on the ball for Marconi and unleashed a solid shot which was well saved by keeper Jackson. The Rams then replied with a good combination of passing by Baker, Cartwright and Lauren Ralston before a shot is hit to the Marconi keeper. Ahh, but The Stallions had the last say before half time with Camilleri and Connor working together before laying back the ball for a shot from Lisa Gatt. The shot flew wide but put Macarthur on notice that The Stallions weren?t going away.
Half time saw the score at 1-1. This was anybody?s game.
The Stallions opened the second half brightly with some good passing that took their attack forward. The Rams, too, pressed in attack with Ledbrook and Cartwright combining to create Macarthur?s first opportunity of the half. The, at the other end, Marconi pushed into the Macarthur area, bringing a fumble by the Rams keeper before the danger was cleared by the locals? defence.
A succession of chances followed with Ledbrook and Haim prominent for The Rams. Nicole Kimber floated a fine free kick into the Macarthur box where keeper Jackson was again under pressure but her fumble was not taken advantage of by The Stallions.
In the 57th minute Annalise Baker copped a yellow card from referee Leanne Smith.
Kylie Ledbrook was obviously keen to make up for her send off in the last clash between these two sides. She seemed to be everywhere. A jigging run from the edge of the Marconi box saw her turn and shoot but the ball just cleared the cross bar.
In the 61st minute Renee Cartwright dispossessed Marconi defender Toni Dempsey as she attempted to work play out of her half. Cartwright then ran straight into The Stallions area before laying the ball off to the ever present Ledbrook. BANG! The ball was in the back of the net and suddenly Macarthur had the lead! Within four minutes The Rams were at it again after Haim and Ledbrook set up play. A charge for the ball between keeper Ryan and Renee Cartwright saw the ball deflected to Manty whose shot went wide.
Sam Muscat replaced Lisa Gatt for Marconi. Clare Walsh from Rams picked up a yellow card for a foul on Ash Connor. Renee Cartwright, who?d been struggling for most of the second half after some solid knocks, was replaced by Nicole Winley.
Jodie Bain punctuated all of this with a long distance shot for The Stallions but the ball sailed just over the cross bar.
In the 75th minute The Stallions pushed ahead through Perfilio and Kimber. A cross into the box found Links who shot hard and low but keeper Jackson was equal to the task. Ledbrook and Haim returned serve with Haim?s distance shot not troubling the keeper. After some good lead up work, with Perfilio again prominent, Bain tried another distance shot but the ball flew to the keeper. When Marconi did win a corner, Camilleri?s header hit the post; a narrow escape for The Rams.
Ledbrook then picked up a yellow card. Coach Matt Turvey decided to play safe with his midfield maestro and subbed her with Leila Braimah. A brave move when one considered the match was still in the balance.
In the 86th minute The Rams were awarded a free kick. Rams Captain Danielle Brogan stepped up to hit the ball from some 30 metres out and to the left of goal. Brogan?s shot was pinpoint accurate, flying over the keeper?s outstretched hands into the top right corner of the net. What a goal to clinch the three points for Macarthur.
Brogan proceeded to the sideline to bow and blow kisses to her adoring home crowd. Why, she even managed to blow a kiss to Marconi?s Ash Connor as she walked back to position. Brogan is a tough customer. If I ever need a bodyguard I?m thinking she?d be atop my list of candidates!
The game ended soon after with a solid win to Macarthur, 3-1.
Marconi Coach Mauro Tacco was disappointed with the manner in which his side had conceded goals. He said that Macarthur had capitalised on their opportunities. Overall though Tacco was happy with the effort put in by his girls. He gave full credit to rams on their win.
Rams Coach Matt Turvey was pleased to put to bed the ?Marconi hoodoo? that had plagued his side this season. Turvey felt that both sides had looked disjointed in the first half. He didn?t want to single out any of his players but felt that the team had really pulled together in the last few weeks. Turvey was now hoping for a strong run home prior to the finals.
You?d have been hard to please if you didn?t enjoy this game. Referee Leanne Smith certainly had her work cut out for her as both sides played with plenty of passion. These two sides have so much talent. I?m sure we?ll see more of them when the premiership deciders start in a few weeks time.
Macarthur Rams 3 (R.Cartwright, K.Ledbrook, D.Brogan)
Marconi Stallions 1 (Camilleri)
In other matches NWS Koalas and Penrith battled out a hard fought draw at ELS Hall Park.
This cut the Koalas lead atop the table to just two points, giving The Rams a sniff at Minor Premiership honours. Penrith?s performance in grabbing a point keeps them in the battle for fourth spot. Both they and Marconi Stallions have two games in hand; The Stallions now just two points ahead of Penrith.
Both sides created opportunities but couldn?t find the final pass or strike to break the deadlock.
NWS Koalas 0
Penrith Nepean United 0
Manly United FC turned in one of their stellar performances with a clinical 7-0 defeat of Sydney University at Cromer Park. The Manly side were up 3-0 by half time with Gil Foster, showing no ill effects from her work at the Sydney FC School Holiday Clinics during the week, scoring in the 10th and 25th minutes. Neville added the third in the 35th minute.
Manly went on with the job in the second half with Foster completing her hat trick in the 68th minute. Jarvie (65m), Van Weeren (72m) and Bates (85m) were the other scorers for the local girls. When Manly put on this sort of goalfest it?s easy to see why people rate them as serious premiership contenders.
Manly United FC 7 (G.Foster 3, L.Neville, C.Jarvie, H.Van Weeren, E.Bates)
Sydney University 0
The final game of the round was the bottom of the table clash between Sutherland Sharks and Central Coast Lightning.
Finally the Sharkies girls answered my, and I don?t doubt their own, prayers in scoring a 2-0 win over The Lightning side. Katie Hilder opened the scoring for The Sharks in just the 7th minute but Central Coast dug deep.
Coach Michael Michael of The Sharks would have been happy to have a half time lead but it took until the 72nd minute, when Hilder struck again, before the Sharks? bench would have been feeling any sort of comfort.
The win moves The Sharks three points clear of last place. Central Coast look doomed in both the premiership and the club championship, completing a rather forgettable season for the club. Let?s hope they have a few surprises in store before season?s end.
Sutherland Sharks 2 (K.Hilder 2)
Central Coast Lightning 0
A fine round of football but next week offers even more to savour with Manly United playing Marconi Stallions, Penrith United hosting The Rams, Central Coast meeting competition leaders NWS Koalas and Sutherland Sharks trying to stretch their winning streak to two against Sydney University.
-By Ross Anderson