Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League Round 4 Preview

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The first of the big matches comes at Cromer Park where the unbeaten Manly United FC come up against their old adversaries, Macarthur Rams.

In past seasons The Rams have had the wood on Manly but the girls from the peninsula turned that one around towards the end of last season when they gave the Macarthur girls quite a mauling. Manly are certainly in the right sort of form to repeat the does; coming off a fine win last Sunday over fellow title aspirants, Inter Lions. Emma Stewart has been in great form for the Manly side, along with inspirational Captain Gill Foster and the talented Bronte Bates. The locals will go into the game in a confident frame of mind given their form so far in 2010.
Macarthur Rams sit in fourth spot on the competition ladder after three rounds. They?ve scored comfortable wins over NWS Koalas and Sutherland Sharks but feel to a surprise defeat against Marconi Stallions. Whilst missing a couple of influential players from previous campaigns The Rams still look capable of having a say in the big end of season matches. The Campbelltown girls have a habit of rising to the occasion in important matches and this certainly looms as a challenge for them. Look out for a stellar performance from Rams star goal scorer Stephanie Haim, who is getting back to peak fitness after an early season injury.
This promises to be one hell of a game between two classy football sides. A couple of big moments from the star players on either side could swing the match. Manly impressed me last week, however, and I?ll tip them to score a narrow win here.
The other outstanding match of the weekend would appear to be out at Marconi Stadium where the young Marconi Stallions team meets the 2009 Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League Champions, the Illawarra Stingrays.
This is a big test for the Marconi girls who have proven the early surprise packet of the 2010 season. An upset win over Macarthur Rams was followed last week with a 10-1 demolition of Southern Branch down in Nowra. The enthusiasm of the younger players brought into the squad this season has proven a big bonus for a side that struggled for most of 2009. Seventeen year old Helen Petinos and nineteen year old Emma Stanbury are keeping the scoreboard attendants busy with a burst of goal scoring in recent weeks. The Stallions will be hoping that both will continue their rich vein of form on Sunday.
The Stingrays haven?t put a foot wrong in their title defence during the first three rounds. Sure, things may have been a little tougher here and there than might have been expected but Illawarra have had the class to find the line. Ash Connor has scored five goals in three matches; certainly softening any harm caused by the loss of last season?s golden boot star Michelle Heyman. Michelle Carney has continued to lead The Stingrays around the park with her usual aplomb. The girls from Illawarra certainly deserve early favoritism in the Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League but they?ll need to be wary as every side tries to claim their scalp.
I expect Marconi to put in a competitive effort here but The Stingrays aren?t called champions for nothing. I think Illawarra will prove a touch too strong.
The NWS Koalas make the long trek to Bathurst this weekend where the Western NSW Panthers await.
The Panthers have jumped off to a good start in 2010, winning two of their three games to date. The wins may have been against a couple of the competitions less fancied sides but a win is a win no matter who it?s against. Their one defeat saw a credible performance against Illawarra Stingrays. Whilst Western NSW are still without their goal scoring skipper Gillian Rosconi, they?ve shown enough to have me thinking they won?t be easy beats in the first season of Arrive Alive Women?s Premier League football.
The NWS Koalas sit in seventh spot on the competition table with just three points. They?ve suffered two close defeats at the hands of Macarthur Rams and Illawarra Stingrays. Sandwiched between those losses was a 5-0 victory over Southern Branch. The Koalas don?t look to be too far off the pace with these results but they?ll obviously want to start collecting more points than plaudits. I suspect that they?d fancy their chances against the premier league newcomers but the trip to Bathurst is never an easy one.
There won?t be much in this game either but I think that the NWS Koalas can leave for home with three points in their kit bags.
At Concord Oval Inter Lions will be up against Sydney University.
The Lions will still be smarting from last weekend?s loss, in front of their home crowd, to Manly United FC. At half time the Inter girls looked like continuing their unbeaten run but the team faded badly in the second half. Captain Catherine Cannuli will be looking to her side for a 90 minute effort this Sunday. The Lions have too much class in their team to put in two below average efforts in a row so expect the likes of Caitlan Jarvie, Dani Calvi and Jodie Bain to be pumped for big games against University.
Sydney University haven?t had a good start to the 2010 season. Sitting eighth with three losses from three games is not what the side would have been looking for to start their year. With the added loss of Club Captain Belinda Seers through injury things are looking grim for the University side right now. A match up against one of the teams being touted for end of season honors provides a tough assignment; are the University side capable of lifting?
Inter Lions looked the goods until half time against Manly.  Given The Lions form prior to that and Sydney University?s current woes it?s hard to go past the locals to win this Sunday.
Our final match for preview sees the game between the two sides at the wrong end of the ladder; Southern Branch and Sutherland Sharks.
Southern Branch Coach Shane Duffy and his Sutherland Sharks counterpart Michael Michael must be both at their wits end as they search for a win in season 2010.
Sutherland Sharks have certainly shown some improvement on their 2009 form but that hasn?t translated into competition points. The Sharks seem to have been able to compete up until half time in their matches but have fallen away after the break. They?ve met three of the league?s ?big guns? in the first three rounds so Sutherland may quite rightly assert that they can pick up some points in the next few weeks against the less fancied teams. Finding a consistent goal scorer could be the biggest obstacle to that happening.
Southern Branch went down narrowly in their first round encounter with Western NSW Panthers but, since that game, have conceded 15 goals in two matches. Team morale must be at a very low ebb and Coach Duffy will have a job on his hands to get his girls firing again. However, the competition table at least says that this match is winnable so it?s a big opportunity for the Southern girls to lift themselves away from the wooden spoon position.
I?d love to see Southern Branch kick start their season with a much needed win but I feel that Sutherland Sharks may have just enough ammunition to get away with this one.
So there we have it. Two blockbusters and a fine supporting cast of games offers women?s football fans a feast of great goals and thrilling tackles this weekend.
I look forward to seeing you at the ground.

-By Ross Anderson