Around the Clubs

Women’s 1st Division – Finals Week 2 Roundup

September 5th, 2017
By Tim Klingbiel

 

Boambee Eagles vs Urunga Raiders

With a 5-1 win in the bag from the first leg and carrying an incredible record of 12 wins in a row against the Raiders – a 2-2 draw in Round 18 of the 2014 season was the last time they failed to defeat their maroon opponents in NCF competition – the Eagles could be forgiven for showing a diminished level of intensity in this game, but Glenn Bennett’s girls had other ideas as they looked to register one more impressive team performance to progress to the grand final on a high note and preserve their perfect season of 15 wins thus far – a streak of 19 wins going back to 2016.

Trevor Martin’s Raiders turned on an excellent second half display the previous week to go 1-1 with the Eagles, and they would need to rediscover the formula that made them so competitive during that period – along with an extra helping of magic and perhaps some fortune from the footballing gods – if they were to go close to overturning the four goal deficit on the cement-like deck of Ayrshire Park.

Indeed, the Raiders defence picked up exactly where it left off during the second stanza at the Patch, with a well organised backline as stoic as ever and determined not to give up any further goals. It appeared there was only one puzzle they were unable to solve – in fairness, no team this season has yet – and that was Kylie McDonald. Presented later that evening with the Player of the Year award for 2017 as well as the golden boot for a staggering 43 goals converted over just 14 regular season games – more than a hat trick per game average – McDonald broke the deadlock in a half that otherwise offered few chances for either side.

Going to the break at 1-0 down, Martin again had a challenge to navigate if his charges were to mount an improbable comeback. Bennett’s half time talk revolved around desire for possession – winning the 50/50s and making themselves available to receive a pass would be paramount to the Eagles success – as well as creating more opportunities in attack, since their forays into the Raiders box had until that point been few and far between.

But full credit must go to the Raiders, who refused to wilt even in the face of overwhelming adversity. They remained well organised throughout, and even as the home side lifted their standard of play and began making much better movement off the ball to find space, the Urunga girls stayed in the fight and stubbornly refused to allow the Premiers an easy ride.

Gaia Malcisi was having a solid game in goals for the Raiders but there was little she could do about a fine piece of individual skill courtesy of McDonald, who collected the ball just outside the area with some space to work with and coolly deposited it past 2017’s Goalkeeper of the Year. 2-0 the score and 7-1 on aggregate, and that was how things stayed until the final whistle.

Though the Raiders will be disappointed to have ultimately fallen short of a grand final appearance, they should nonetheless be proud of their showing against the Eagles and their 1-0 win over the Wildcats to sneak into finals ahead of the Cedars showed they are a force to be reckoned with and can beat anyone on their day. Their semi-final appearance saw Trevor Martin named Coach of the Year and they will be pleased that their efforts in 2017 were so richly rewarded – with Malcisi also picking up a positional gong on Saturday night.

The Eagles are looking strong heading into what will be a tough matchup this weekend and though they will be gutted that their 2nd division clubmates will not be able to share in the ceremony of the day, their focus will be fixed solely on completing their thus far faultless season and achieving the Premiership/Championship double for the second year running.

Woolgoolga Wildcats vs Maclean Bobcats

Going down 4-0 at High Street was hardly the way the Bobcats would have wanted their first leg to play out, but Col Stephens was tasked with steeling his girls for an attempt at what would be an historic comeback to book a second consecutive grand final against the Eagles. They weren’t going to die wondering, and spectators were certainly going to be in for an enterprising performance as they searched for five goals on the afternoon.

The strong first leg performance saw a confident Wildcats side march into the second leg at Wherrett Park hoping to put an exclamation mark on their season with a first grand final appearance since 2011’s heart-stopping triumph over Coffs United, where a last gasp Jasmin Courtenay equaliser sent the match into extra time and a three goal blitz saw the Woopi girls get home 4-1.

Kim Batty is the only member of that squad still around the traps, so it’s clear the 2017 side has a very different complexion, though still perhaps just as much talent as their high achieving predecessors. Having also been an integral part of the 1996 title winning Woolgoolga squad, Batty’s experience both on the field and in implementing the team’s tactics and playing structures would prove invaluable for a group of girls she noted were very nervous heading into Saturday’s encounter.

Though the home side were under a wealth of pressure due to the deficit they needed to make up in order to keep their season alive, the Bobcats’ 6-1 and 5-2 wins earlier in the season gave the Wildcats some cause for concern of their own, and Batty said her girls were keen to ensure the bus trip home was not a long and quiet one.

Stephens said that Woolgoolga outmuscled his girls during the first leg, so the focus was on stepping up in this regard along with pushing their defence up quickly to allow their halves and strikers a chance to gain control of the middle of the park. He knew that quick release football was needed, and the target was to put two in the net in the first half to ramp up the pressure on their opponents.

 

The Maclean girls came out strongly in the first half and took the game to Woolgoolga, and it became clear to observers on the day that a very close contest was going to play out over 90 minutes. Neither side gave an inch and by the time the break rolled around, the game was still evenly poised at 0-0. The Bobcats defence had tightened substantially from the previous week but their attacking players were unable to profit due to a similar level of containment being displayed by Woolgoolga’s backline.

It was going to take some effort to break the deadlock and during the interval, Batty stressed the importance of working hard and continuing to play attacking football rather than sitting back and absorbing pressure to try and hold the first leg lead. Maclean too would need a proactive approach, as five second half goals weren’t going to happen by accident in a game with limited chances.

At around the 65 minute mark, the Wildcats finally got the goal they were looking for to kill the contest off, and it was Kenisha Warren who slotted a quality finish to put the girls in blue ahead. The away goal meant Maclean would now need six to progress and it seemed there would be no way back for the Bobcats.

Showing maturity beyond the years of a number of the side’s younger players, the Wildcats maintained their focus until the end of the game and finished strongly to keep a clean sheet and ensure they progressed to the final on the back of no goals conceded in their last 180 minutes of football – against a side who finished second and made the grand final last season no less.

Stephens said that Woolgoolga outmuscled his girls during the first leg, so the focus was on stepping up in this regard along with pushing their defence up quickly to allow their halves and strikers a chance to gain control of the middle of the park. He knew that quick release football was needed, and the target was to put two in the net in the first half to ramp up the pressure on their opponents.

Batty credited her girls’ desire and work rate as being the deciding factors on an afternoon of fine margins, and they will need to draw heavily upon both of those traits this weekend when they take on the Eagles at C.ex International Stadium. Based on their results over the past fortnight, their preparation appears to have been ideal and while a formidable challenge looms on Saturday, the Wildcats will believe they have what it takes to make it an enthralling contest and bring glory to the Northern Beaches once again.

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