It’s Grand Final time for the PlayStation® 4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Women’s 2016, and what a decider it promises to be as the Northern Tigers take on Inter Lions for the right to be proclaimed Champions.
We’ve got two sides that don’t take a backward step, and both do things in their own way. A tight and fascinating contest looms in what is sure to be a fantastic end to the 2016 season.
First Grade Grand Final:
Northern Tigers FC vs Inter Lions SC, 5pm Sunday September 11th at Valentine Sports Park NO.2
Northern Tigers 1 – 1 Inter Lions
Inter Lions 1 – 1 Northern Tigers
Inter Lions 1 – 3 Northern Tigers
Major Semi Final:
Inter Lions 1 – 2 Northern Tigers
And so it comes down to this. The Tigers will of course be well rested after their week off, and have had the chance to let any niggles and strains heal in time for the decider. And they’ll need the tanks to be full on Sunday to hold off the Lions for the full 90, as in the end a tiring Northern did well to hold onto their 2-1 lead in the major semi-final.
They’ll be after a fast start once again here, and the key for them will be making the most of whatever they can conjure. The fact is that a ruthless Northern Tigers will win this as they simply create too many chances per match when they’re in the mood. It’s no disservice at all to Inter, but the Tigers can hurt you in so many ways that it’s difficult to see how Inter can stop them if they are at their best.
Inter were still susceptible to the ball in behind against Olympic, with Madelaine Costanzo’s opening goal coming as a result of a well-timed run. The Olympic striker was able to get on the end of several other weighted passes, and really should have made more of the opportunities. That still looks to be the main threat Inter will have to guard against, as the Tigers have pace to burn out wide in Josie Wilson and Hannah McNulty. Wilson has been particularly deadly this season angling her runs in off the wing and latching onto through balls from the likes of Emma Watkins and Eilidh Mackay.
To stop this, the Lions will have to be more vigilant than they have been in midfield. They press well, but when it fails the back four is left exposed. If an attacker drops between the lines of midfield and defence against Inter they often have time to turn and face forward – as Danielle Calvi did last Sunday – which gives them time to pick out a teammate making a forward run. Alisha Dudman and Lauren Sharp will need to put in huge shifts to prevent these kinds of openings, and even Maria Kalogeropoulos may have to drop deeper into midfield to fill the gaps if and when they appear.
The Lions skipper has been in the wars in recent weeks, hobbling off in both finals matches but returning shortly after to continue the fight for her side. Expect the Inter number 8 to link up with the hard running Sarah Mandile when Inter look to hit on the counter attack.
Inter suffered a huge blow in their preliminary final when Natasha Pentecost went down with a serious looking knee injury midway through the first half. The goalkeeper has been one of the competition’s best this season, and without a miracle recovery looks little chance of lining up for the Lions this Sunday. Even if she takes the field it will be tough for her mobility to be at 100%, which the Tigers will be smart to exploit if they’re given the chance.
On paper, it’s hard to argue a case against the Tigers. When they’re on they are nigh unplayable going forward, and they can dig in for a midfield battle with the best that this league has to offer. But as we’ve seen time and time again there’s just something about the Lions that makes them immensely hard to beat in the big games.
The longer the Lions keep this a tight contest the greater the chance they have. They keep their intensity going for the full 90 minutes, so if the Tigers can’t pull away then they’ll be ripe for the taking late on.
The finest of margins are going to decide this one, and we couldn’t ask for a worthier pair of grand finalists.
Hannah McNulty has proven herself to be one of the league’s most dynamic forward players and you always get the feeling that something is about to happen when she receives the ball out on the left wing for the Northern Tigers.
Equally adept at taking her player on down the line to look for the cross, or cutting inside to create an angle for the shot, she poses a unique danger to the opposition due to her all round game. While many forwards in this league are formidable, they often excel in one key area that provides them with an advantage; where McNulty differs is the ability to pay all across the front line in a variety of roles.
This season she’s played on both wings, slipped into the 10 role, and has filled in as an auxiliary 9 when required – and expect her to do the same this weekend. She scored the goal of the season in the major semi-final, and has it in her locker to do something similar on Sunday.
Rhonda Succar is a great embodiment of the tenacity of this Inter Lions team and is an important cog in the way they play their football. She’s skilful one on one, with the ability to edge her way around her direct opponent before darting past them into space, allowing her to get to the by-line or to cut inside and head towards goal.
Her runs off the ball are clever as well, and she’s always putting herself in great positions in the box. This has allowed her to nip in with several important goals for her side this year, most notably the winner against Sutherland in round 14.
Succar can run all day too, and like the rest of her side doesn’t stop competing until the final whistle. She’s someone that can find that crucial half a yard to break a game open, and will be a key figure for the Lions this Sunday afternoon.
Nepean FC vs Northern Tigers FC, 2.15pm Sunday September 11th at Valentine Sports Park NO.2
Nepean FC 0 – 0 Northern Tigers
Northern Tigers 1 – 0 Nepean FC
Nepean FC 1 – 3 Northern Tigers
Major Semi Final:
Northern Tigers 0 – 1 Nepean FC (after extra time)
Grand Final Preview:
The Tigers were by far and away the best side in the reserve grade competition for 2016 and will come into this as clear favourites despite the loss to Nepean 2 weeks ago, which was remarkably their first for the year. Finishing 8 points clear at the top of the table – and only conceding 9 goals – means the Tigers can afford to treat that loss as nothing but a blip, as they look resume normal service in the decider.
Nepean have had a consistent year themselves, and that win against the Tigers should prove to them that they can do it again. A week’s rest, and now they can go full throttle to try and snatch the upset on Sunday to claim the silverware.
-By Eamonn Warner, PS4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Women’s Reporter