I ventured out to Peel Park today to file my match report on the Illawarra Stingrays versus Gladesville Ravens clash. This pitted first on the ladder against third but, I must admit, I thought the game may be a no contest.
Last time the two sides met Illawarra had scored an emphatic 5-0 win; the type of scoreline The Stingrays have been putting on a number of their opponents this season. Despite a few injury concerns I couldn?t see why the Illawarra girls wouldn?t repeat the dose. I have to apologise to Gladesville. I sold them short despite having lauded their courage more than once this season. This was a match which the Gladesville girls should remember if they happen to hit a rough in coming weeks.
I suppose I should go through my usual blow by blow description of events but a review of this match requires a different approach. The match started with that usual period of play where both teams try to find their rhythm. Both keepers were called upon for a little work early. However, the breakthrough came against the general run of play when, in the 9th minute, Gladesville?s Alyssa Hardie dispossessed an Illawarra defender before laying on a nice pass for Fatma Agar. The Ravens striker beat the advancing Stingrays keeper to the ball, calmly slotting away her shot to give the locals a 1-0 lead.
This setback seemed to lift the Illawarra side and they set about trying to find the equaliser. A couple of free kicks, an errant shot or two sustained the pressure by Illawarra. The Ravens, to their credit, scrambled admirably in defence. But, in the 20th minute, a corner by Illawarra found Cassie Halloway at the back post to volley away a fine goal. With The Stingrays back on an even keel there were supporters in the crowd who wondered if the Gladesville resolve would now weaken. Oh ye of little faith!
For the next ten minutes The Stingrays did threaten to break loose. Halloway and Carney both tested Ravens keeper Claire Cherrington. Illawarra nearly caused a disaster of their own making when a back pass to keeper Sarah Gallop was almost charged down by Fatma Agar.
The Stingrays looked more structured in attack but Gladesville?s defenders, led by the ever present Freysa Meere, were frustrating their more highly fancied opponents. The Ravens girls continued to come up with last ditch tackles or were willing to throw whatever body parts they could muster in the way of the ball. This was a side that were determined to show their worth.
Suddenly, in the 39th minute, Gladesville managed to win themselves a free kick about 35 metres from goal. Gladesville?s Nicole Ridley placed the kick beautifully to match a great run into the box by Fatma Agar who headed past keeper Gallop to give the Ravens the lead for a second time.
Illawarra charged forward with a blasting shot by Michelle Carney being blocked by Ravens keeper Cherrington. Free kicks and corners rained in on the Ravens defence up until half time but they managed to survive the onslaught to hold their 2-1 lead into the break.
Illawarra?s Michelle Heyman fired the first shot of the second half; winning a corner after a fine run. Whilst The Stingrays got a free header from the kick they only managed to put the ball wide. It was then The Ravens turn to shine as Courtenay Parrot found herself in front of goal twice. Her first effort comes after hesitation as the defence wait for an offside call. Parrott didn?t even seem to realise herself that she was on side and, by the time she reacts, she is off balance and shooting wide.
Moments later Parrott was again free on goal but hit her shot with her left foot, lacking power and easy prey for the keeper. This is a fine period of play for The Ravens who appeared to be getting the upper hand.
However, the missed opportunities prove costly for Gladesville when Heyman?s superb through ball finds Carney streaking into the clear. Carney beats the advancing Cherrington to score her side?s second goal and, once again, level the match.
What you get from here readers is a summary of events. To detail everything would run into a novel of War and Peace proportions. Needless to say Illawarra through everything bar the kitchen sink at Gladesville for the next 34 minutes. Carney, Heyman, the substitute Talitha Kramer twisted, turned, parried, ran but just could not get past the gutsy Ravens defensive line. Claire Cherrington put her body on the line more than once for the home side as did Freysa Meere. Yes, Ravens made their own forays up field, usually breaking from defence, but couldn?t land the telling blow. Illawarra were more dominant but couldn?t break their willing opponents down. Right up until the final whistle The Stingrays were pressing in attack but this was a day for The Ravens to savour as they held out to grab a 2-2 draw.
If my Under 16 Girls team turned in an effort like Gladesville?s I?d be immensely proud of them. Illawarra may have been the more skilful, dangerous side for the bulk of the match. But the Gladesville girls played with the hearts of lions, thoroughly deserving their share of the spoils.
Ravens Coach Paul Wade was a happy man. Wade commented that his side had managed a few ?cheeky results? this season; this being another. He said that this was the gustiest performance he?d seen from his side and that they had lifted another rung up the ladder to compete.
Stingrays mentor Darren Sewalt, gave his team an A for effort. He felt that both teams fought extremely well and provided the spectators with a great game to watch. Sewalt paid full credit to Gladesville who he said had not let his team play their normal game.
A great match this one. Entertaining, plenty of thrills and spills, wonderful skills by a variety of players; I?d come to watch a match like this one every week. Full credit to both teams for the enthusiasm and energy they put into the game.
Gladesville Ravens 2 (F.Agar 2)
Illawarra Stingrays 2 (C.Halloway, M.Carney)
Blacktown Spartans turned on one of their five star performances, handing a disappointing Northern Tigers a 7-1 thrashing at Francis Park. Spartans Captain Bronwyn Jarvis was the star of the day; scoring four second half goals after her side had led 3-1 at half time. After Erin Connell?s 13th minute strike put Blacktown in front The Tigers replied through Kurmann. A second goal to Connell in the 24th minute followed by another right on half time by youngster Elif Albayrak saw Blacktown in the box seat. Jarvis?s second half fireworks turned the game into a runaway for the home side.
Blacktown Spartans 7 (B.Jarvis 4, E.Connell 2, E.Albayrak)
Northern Tigers 1 (S.Kurmann)
Western NSW Panthers kept their Minor Premiership hopes alive with a 4-1 win over a gallant Bankstown Wildcats in Bathurst.
Two goals to Ashleigh Sykes along with goals to Gillian Rosconi and Jade Braun saw The Panthers home. Maria Kalogeropoulos was the goal scorer for Bankstown.
Western NSW Panthers 4 (A.Sykes 2, G.Rosconi, J.Braun)
Bankstown Wildcats 1 (M.Kalogeropoulos)
St George FC stayed in the fight for a semi final spot with a comfortable 3-0 win over UNSW. After Arnold opened the scoring in the 6th minute St George had stretched their lead to 2-0 by half time courtesy of a 33rd minute shot by Rodopoulos. Toumbelekis put the final nail in the UNSW coffin in the 70th minute.
UNSW, tried hard as always but St George were too good.
St George FC 3 (C.Arnold, E.Rodopoulos, M.Toumbelekis)
The final match of the round saw a comfortable win to Southern NSW; a success that maintains their fourth spot on the competition table. A brace by Cobb in the 51st and 53rd minutes followed by a Johnston strike in the 60th was enough to see off a gritty Inter Lions side who?d fought hard to get to half time level with the locals.
This win sets up a big clash next weekend between Southern NSW and Ste George; a match that could decide our fourth semi finalist.
Southern NSW FC 3 (E.Cobb 2, S.Johnston)
Inter Lions 0
This weekend?s results have really put the cat amongst the pigeons in the battle for both the Club Championship and the Minor Premiership. Illawarra?s stumble against ravens was repeated in the lower grades, placing The Stingrays challenge for promotion in jeopardy.
That last match of the season against Western NSW Panthers is taking on epic proportions for more than one reason.
-By Ross Anderson