Your reporter ventured down beside the Lane Cove National Park to Magdala Reserve to watch The Ravens and The Lightning go to war.
Match of the Day Gladesville Ravens v Central Coast Lightning
Bright sunshine greeted the crowd at Magdala Reserve for the clash between two of the Arrive Alive Women?s Super League?s most talented teams.
The early exchanges saw Gladesville Ravens pushing forward and applying plenty of pressure to the Central Coast defence. Though The Ravens were forcing safe options from the Lightning defenders they didn?t manage to find a shot on goal.
Central Coast gradually worked their way into the game however and started to return serve to the Gladesville defenders. A clearing kick by Lightning saw Ashleigh Morris race through deep into the Ravens penalty area but she was unable to get a clear shot and turned over possession.
Neither side had been able to make what could be called a decisive play. A Ravens corner won by Elizabeth Talarico saw the ball cleared into attack by Lightning but they were unable to capitalise. However, in the 19th minute, an error by the Lightning defence saw the keeper left stranded as Nikki Ridley burst onto the ball, neatly tucking away the opportunity to give Gladesville a 1-0 lead.
More good play from Ravens saw Nikki Ridley in position to shoot again but Lightning keeper Samantha Butler was able to leap high and hold the ball. Central Coast appeared rattled and off their game. Ravens sustained pressure appeared to be having the desired result.
Ridley was looking dangerous for Gladesville every time she touched the ball whilst Ashley Hulme was proving a strong presence in midfield for the home side. Central Coast?s most telling forays seemed to be on the counter attack with another penetrating burst down the left flank after Ravens corner seeing Melissa Swinfield almost engineer a Lightning equaliser.
A Ravens free kick from about 30 metres saw Lightning concede a corner from which Gladesville glanced the ball across the goal mouth. A close call for The Lightning. Ravens continued to push forward but Central Coast were managing to close the door with some good last gasp defence. A Ravens free kick saw the ball played through to Hannah Vousden racing down the left flank but her shot was wide of goal. The visitors seemed a little devoid of ideas and had started to bomb the ball forward in hope rather than their usual free flowing style.
The game had become something of a hard slog as both sides sought to push out of the middle of the park. Central Coast were starting to look more dangerous as they gathered more possession. Successive corners brought Lightning no joy but the contest was certainly hotting up.
At half time The Ravens held a 1-0 lead.
The Ravens substituted Georgena Attallah with Fatma Agar at half time.
Gladesville have early opportunities after the break with Nikki Ridley and Ashley Hulme both causing the Lightning defence problems. The Central Coast side then manufactured some chances of their own with a scything Melissa Swinfield run ending with a shot across the face of goal. Ashleigh Morris also has a chance but shoots over the top of goal. We certainly had a brisk start to the second half! Central Coast had returned from oranges with some new resolve.
Another Central Coast attack saw no 33 shoot but her attempt hit the post and bounced clear. The Lightning seemed to be getting in behind the Ravens defence.
A fine run by substitute Alison Crosbie saw her link with Elizabeth Talarico. The Ravens midfielder turned her defender before crossing to Fatma Agar but the ball was cleared.
Peta Osmond then replaced Elizabeth Talarico.
A great run through the heart of the Ashley Hulme defence saw the dominant midfielder race into the box before firing off a fine finish to give Gladesville a 2-0 lead in the 62nd minute.
Play went back to seesawing but neither side could put the ball in the right spot. Central Coast needed something to spark them into action but Gladesville were holding all the aces despite injuries to key players. Central Coast conjured up another chance that saw Jennifer Tatum break clear but her shot failed to trouble the Gladesville keeper.
Central Coast were camped in The Ravens half but couldn?t come up with the goods. A long distance shot by Lightning Captain Tatum flew over the top of goal. Ravens Alyssa Hardie then made a nice run at the other end of the park before hitting the crossbar with a stinging shot.
After a free kick against Lightning the referee gives two quick yellows to Jennifer Tatum leaving Central Coast with ten players for the remainder of the game.
Central Coast lifted, finding Sarah Ball flying onto the ball but the resulting shot hit the post and was cleared by The Ravens defence.
Ravens are also down to ten now after yet another injury. Ravens Ashley Hulme was running on one leg but bravely battled on. However, Central Coast weren?t able to take advantage and Gladesville Ravens maintained their 2-0 lead until the final whistle.
Ravens Captain Rebecca Colechin felt that her side started the game strongly and had played some good football. However, Rebecca also commented that she thought her team had dropped off somewhat after scoring the opening goal. ?Fortunately our defence stayed strong and we saw it out despite it becoming a bit ?messy? said Colechin.
Lightning Captain Jennifer Tatum wasn?t in the best frame of mind after her send off and handed the post match comments over to injured team leader Jenna Hedge Jenna said that The Lightning girls had not turned up to play on the day. ?We played too narrow, turned over a lot of possession and were out enthused by Ravens? said Hedge. ?We will need to step it up next week and get over this game? said Hedge.
This wasn?t a classic but the Gladesville girls started with plenty of passion and this appeared to put Central Coast off their game. Central Coast did have their moments but The Ravens were always able to come up with that vital tackle or that incisive run. They deserved their win but I think that they are still capable of more than what they showed us yesterday. The club physio will certainly earn his/her money this week with plenty of injured Ravens players heading for the car park after the game.
GLADESVILLE RAVENS 2 (N.Ridley 17m, A.Hulme 62m)
CENTRAL COAST LIGHTNING 0
In other matches, at Francis Park, Blacktown Spartans dominated the visiting St George FC side.
Within six minutes St George were down 2-0 after goals from Vosota (3m) and Hetherington (6m) for Blacktown. Departing St George Captain Natalie Di Francesco got one back for St George in the 19th minute but Spartans took a 3-1 lead into the break after Hetherington nabbed her second in the 38th minute.
After the break Blacktown added goals in the 50th minute to Pope and 60th minute to Harms to cap off a 5-1 mauling of St George.
Blacktown continue to look like major contenders for the title. St George FC tried hard but were simply outclassed on the day.
BLACKTOWN SPARTANS 5 (L.Vosota 3m, S.Hetherington 6m/38m, K.Pope 52m, K.Harms 60m)
ST GEORGE FC 1 (N.Di Francesco 19m)
At Melita Stadium Eastern UNSW Lions were looking to break their Arrive Alive Women?s Super League duck when they took on the home side, Lady Hawks.
The Lions started strongly with Gigi Tsang opening the scoring in the 15th minute. Tsang had a chance to extend the lead not long after but wasn?t able to capitalise on the opportunity.
The Lady Hawks started to step up the tempo though with a quick passing game. A fine break led to a goalmouth scramble which, eventually, saw Sylvia Elters of The Lions yellow carded for a hand ball and Lady Hawks given a penalty. Lions goalkeeper Watson saved the penalty from Pringle but pushed it on to the post where it bounced back, hit the keeper on the shoulder and dribbled over the line.
The score remained at 1-1 into the break. Shortly after the resumption Elters was given anther yellow and headed for the sheds. Down to 10 players life was going to be tough for the Lady Hawks. From the resulting free kick Watson was unable to hold the cross and Ryanhart was on hand to tap away the loose ball to give Lady Hawks a 2-1 lead.
Eastern UNSW Lions lifted and tried their best to regroup. They certainly had their chances but Lady Hawks held onto their lead to run out 2-1 winners.
LADY HAWKS 2 (D.Pringle 36m, G.Ryanhart 54m)
EASTERN UNSW LIONS 1 (G.Tsang 15m)
Our final match of the round saw Northern Tigers host APIA at Mills Park.
APIA didn?t prove to be the perfect guests, having dashed to a three goal lead by half time with Kate Meehan (16m), and Alicia Cavanagh (26m/32m) crushing any Northern Tigers resistance. The ?Little Tigers? snatched one back two minutes after the break when Dal Pozzo scored for the home side but APIA were not to be denied.
A 59th minute goal to Priscilla O?Riordan and a 67th minute goal to Natalie Spirovski shot APIA to a 5-1 lead . Georgie Eastoe grabbed a late consolation for Northern Tigers but APIA were too good for the youngsters here.
This was more like the real APIA whereas Northern Tigers couldn?t keep up their good form of the previous two matches.
NORTHERN TIGERS 2 (G.Dal Pozzo 47m, G.Eastoe 83m)
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS 5 (K.Meehan 16m, A.Cavanagh 26m/32m, P.O?Riordan 59m, N.Spirovski 67m)
The Gladesville Ravens continue to lead the way in the Arrive Alive Women?s Super League but they must be looking over their shoulders at the rapidly advancing Blacktown Spartans and APIA sides. This competition is wide open and there are plenty of twists and turns to savour in the coming weeks.
-By Ross Anderson