By Tim Klingbiel
The Victory made the short trip to the Cabbage Patch for a local derby of sorts against Urunga Raiders ‘2’. The warm up saw the Bello girls setting the tone with some great shooting from Cath Hawkshaw, Sam Barker and Allison Kedzlie breeding confidence within the side. Co-captain Lauren Rigney fired the girls up with her pre-match talk and made them aware of what was required to deliver the three points.
Early signs were positive as the Victory went on the attack – the midfield were finding a myriad of ways to scythe through their opponents and create opportunities for their attackers. Manager Deb Baigent observed that powerhouse midfielder Sam Barker was combining effectively with partner in crime Kedzlie, who was delivering some explosive play of her own. The first 13 minutes of football saw a number of shots from Bellingen as Jordy Guest zipped rapidly about the park and latched on to long throw-ins from defender Zoe Webster.
A heavy challenge from Urunga’s Sarah Vidler on Rigney saw Rigney’s shins struck at force and Vidler’s own knee dislocated momentarily as a result. She was carted off and referee Col Graham awarded a drop ball. Urunga attacked from the ensuing play and won a corner, but the Bellingen defence remained steadfast and were able to clear their lines. Coach Kim Barker was full of praise for her defensive combination of Sarah Ludwig, Hannah Watt and Zoe Webster, and said that their initiative to play out from the back was the catalyst for Bello’s confident transitions from defence to attack. Winger Emma Russell also earnt a wrap from Barker due to her pre-emptive play and solid passing game.
Sam Barker delivered a perfect corner that ultimately allowed Rigney to come up with possession and deliver a ball of her own to Hawkshaw. Hawkshaw struck it well and gave the Victory a 1-0 lead. The breakthrough boosted the girls’ confidence and Kedzlie, Barker, Rigney, Guest and Sophie Russell each began to contribute to a high volume of attacks, putting the Urunga keeper under a great deal of pressure. They searched hard for a second before the interval but were unable to find it.
Shortly before the break, the home side suffered another loss as Kelsey Williamson-Leslie stretched her leg to block a firm ball from Watt and had her ankle buckled by the force of the clearance. The home side took stock at the break and came back stronger in the early exchanges of the second stanza with some quality passing and searching balls in an attempt to break through the Victory defensive line. Bellingen responded well though, repelling the attacks and launching counters of their own, with the Raiders keeper forced off her line and the maroon backs called into actions with desperate covering tackles to keep Guest and Ash Harris from increasing Victory’s tally.
Finding space around 25 yards out from goal, Sam Barker communicated effectively to make Kedzlie aware of her availability for the pass. Kedzlie duly produced an excellent ball and Barker was able to thump it home from range to double the lead. Mere minutes later, however, Kedzlie set off on another great run towards goal but hit the deck hard, writhing in pain. Crawling over the byline to ensure the play was able to continue, Kedzlie was now crippled by a trifecta of back, hip and groin injuries and was deemed unfit to continue by the Victory coaching staff.
Lilli Mosco-Klipin entered the fray as Kedzlie’s replacement, and Baigent noted that she muscled up admirably to inject an extra degree of mongrel into the Victory’s play. Alongside defender Bella Ashley she made some excellent overlapping runs and allowed Victory to continue their dominance in the match. The defence continued to diffuse anything the Urunga attack could produce and the attack swooped on any loose balls with hunger and rapidity. The play on display was well worthy of another goal and their persistence duly paid off as the relentless Guest was able to slot the ball through the keeper’s legs to make it 3-0 with not much time remaining.
Baigent thanked the Urunga ‘2’ girls for the way they approached the game, in addition to their coach who she said initiated a friendly introduction on the Victory’s arrival and maintained a positive attitude throughout the match. They will return home to Connell Park next weekend after the long weekend break to face the top Urunga side in what should be a much more difficult assignment, but one the perpetually enthusiastic and determined Bello girls will be keen to take on.
Eagles ‘2’ had the bye and would surely have enjoyed putting their feet up for the weekend, having taken on a host of sides of higher pedigree in the opening rounds of the season with no small amount of success. Their ‘1’ counterparts went to Toormina Oval to take on Sawtell Scorpions in what was once a fiery and highly anticipated local derby and probably will be again in the future, but one that at this point in time represents a meeting of two sides at opposite ends of the experience spectrum as far as local football goes.
A fast start from the Eagles saw two in the first ten minutes courtesy of Keira Plumbe and Kylie McDonald, and the onslaught didn’t look like letting up any time soon. By half time it was 7-0 – Plumbe had her hat trick, McDonald a brace and Bianca Oberleuter and Jasmin Kruger each contributing a goal apiece. Amongst the seven, Oberleuter, Plumbe and McDonald each delivered a strike from range and more than anything this was a credit to the defensive structure of Sawtell, who were able to force the top side in the competition into shooting from further than they would ordinarily feel comfortable. The Eagles also put a fair number of shots wide of the mark due to the pressure created by the girls in green.
Two quick goals to start the second stanza had the Eagles nine up after just 50 minutes of play. Claire Freeman scored her first of the season and McDonald continued to run wild, scoring another three in the half to make it five for the game. Ella Shaw, Di Walker – who again came out of goals for the second half – Kim Hassett, Siobhan Deam, Krista Paunovic – from full back – and Plumbe, with another to increase her tally to four, all chipped in to render a final scoreline of 16-0. Paunovic’s contributions had extended well beyond pure defence as she was regularly amongst the frontline play.
Manager John Walker gave full credit to the Sawtell girls, who he said never gave up and continued to pour forward and take the ball into Boambee’s half. Against a lesser defensive structure than that of the formidable Eagles, the Scorpions would likely have been able to conjure a couple of goals on the afternoon, and their midfield played with great vigour and industry despite only stringing together short runs of possession at any given time.
Eagles ‘1’ and ‘2’ are both at home next weekend against Coffs City United Lionesses and Sawtell Scorpions respectively. The ‘2’s should have a closer game with Rachael Oberleuter’s side than the ‘1’s did, while Coffs have been on a decent run of form of late and might be able to give Glenn Bennett’s Eagles a few headaches, though smart money would be on the Eagles’ undefeated streak being preserved for at least one more week.
Corindi’s home game against Macksville looked to be a decent enough matchup and most local punters expected the Breakers girls to be in with a fair shout on the afternoon having improved every week since the season commenced. The fact that the Stingers took the field with just nine players certainly played into the hands of Donna Smith’s side, and with the teams scoreless at half time it appeared the Northern Beaches ladies may indeed be a chance of picking up their first points of 2018.
Unfortunately the second half was a different story for the Breakers, a Stingers goal straight after the resumption knocked the wind out of their sails and another late on gave their southern opponents a 2-0 victory. The most positive takeaway for the Pacific Street side was definitely their overall competitiveness throughout the 90 minutes though and it feels like each week they are growing a little closer to that elusive first point of the season.
A tough trip to Coronation Park to take on Nambucca Strikers awaits next weekend and the Breakers will definitely have their work cut out for them if they are to collect any sort of result from that fixture. They continue to display determination week in, week out though, and the combined competition has given them the steepest possible learning curve so they will be much better for the experience they are gaining in the heat of battle.
Coffs City United Lionesses
The Lionesses continued their ascent up the ladder on the weekend as they were able to account for Nambucca Strikers 3-0 at their McLean Street home ground. A great run of recent results with three straight wins has them positioned inside the top four, a scenario that would have seemed improbable at the start of the season due to the increased degree of difficulty the combined competition carries with it.
But here they are, eight rounds deep into the campaign and level on points with last year’s narrowly beaten 1st Division grand finalists Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ having played the same amount of games. Such has been the strength of their recent form, they lie only two points behind second spot on the 13 team ladder and with a stellar defensive record of just 10 conceded, which is good for third in the division.
Next weekend’s fixture against Boambee Eagles ‘1’ at Ayrshire Park could well see the winning streak brought to a thudding conclusion, though, and it will take a truly inspired display in conjunction with a decent helping of good fortune if they are to come away from that fixture with anything of any great consequence. Should they produce a result though, it would send genuine shockwaves through the division and show that this crop of Lionesses truly do belong at the top tier of the animal kingdom once again.
A thrilling 3-2 win against Nambucca Strikers last start saw them halve the gap on their southern rivals from six points to just three, and another win in round 8, away at Corindi, allowed them to rather astoundingly leapfrog the Strikers just a fortnight after having a third of their points tally.
Taking the field with just nine players meant they were up against it but a formidable defence coupled with an unshakeable resilience allowed them to keep the game scoreless in the first half. Manager Deb Turner said that the second half started as well as it possibly could have, with a quick fire team move resulting in Kirra Perry, Tazma Clifford, Melina Cooper and finally Johanna Walsh to bury the ball in the Breakers net within four passes.
The Stingers retained their composure and defended stoutly to not only preserve the slender one goal advantage but double it late on. An attacking raid from Walsh allowed her to tee up Kayla Turner, who scored her first goal of the season to make it 2-0 for the girls in red. They continued to play hard right until the final whistle and retained the clean sheet for a vital victory with their backs against the wall.
The Macksville girls return home next weekend to take on Urunga Raiders ‘2’ in what will likely be another close contest, knowing that another three points would stretch their imposing run of form to three straight wins and four in their last five. All of a sudden they would be elevating themselves to a position only a few points outside the finals picture and the season would begin to take on an entirely new complexion, so they will be acutely aware of the importance of claiming a result.
Two gritty 1-0 wins had the Strikers on a solid trajectory but a razor-thin 3-2 loss in the derby to Macksville Stingers last week meant the momentum was brought to a halt. A tricky fixture against an in-form Coffs City United Lionesses outfit awaited them on the weekend and offered them an opportunity for redemption from the previous week’s heartbreak as well as a vital opening to recapture their prior inertia.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, the Lionesses just a bit too strong at their Forsyth Park home ground. A 3-0 defeat put a larger dent in the Nambucca girls’ lofty ambitions of finals football and they now face even more of an uphill battle if they are to elevate themselves back into the realms of contention.
After the long weekend break, they return home to Coronation Park to take on Corindi Breakers, who continue to improve markedly each week. Clay Urquhart’s girls would do well not to take the threat of the Breakers too lightly, as the competition has already proven this season that complacency is punished harshly.
Orara Valley Dingoes
Strength in the centre of the park and clinical finishing were the main stories of the day at Dairyville on the weekend as the Dingoes collected the three points in a genuinely pulsating encounter against Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’. In one of the most open games of the season, the Dingoes were able to outgun their northern adversaries in a 5-4 thriller where they were just a hair’s breadth ahead on being able to convert their chances.
The win elevates them to the rather improbable heights of being just three points off third place and level with Wildcats ‘2’ on the ladder. Their goal difference is vastly inferior due to the two very heavy defeats they suffered against the Boambee Eagles ‘1’ and Urunga Raiders ‘1’ sides, but they have done a great job of accruing points against the competition one tier down from the very upper echelon. In fact, the only blemish on their record against second-tier outfits was the 3-1 reverse to Eagles ‘2’, with their other four encounters yielding three wins and a draw.
They will now take two weekends off, with the long weekend and then the bye allowing them a well earned period of mid-season respite before facing the unenviable task of a trip to High Street to take on Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ in round 10. Helen Moseley has done a phenomenal job of preparing these girls for the rigours of the combined competition, though, and those out of Dairyville have a lot to be proud of with the way the young Dingoes have gone about their business thus far in 2018.
The Scorps had a tough time of things as they hosted Urunga Raiders ‘1’ and went down 14-0 in round 7, and unfortunately it would be more of the same in round 8 as Boambee Eagles ‘1’ came to Toormina Oval to deliver a veritable battering. 16-0 was the final scoreline, but in reality the margin of defeat is not of paramount relevance to the Sawtell girls’ campaign, which is more focused on gaining experience and learning to play together as a squad.
With Rachael Oberleuter at the helm, these ladies are in very capable hands and will continue to progress steadily as the campaign goes on. It’s a side very much still under construction, having only been assembled earlier this year after the club had not fielded a senior women’s side for quite some years, and both Oberleuter and her charges are under no illusions that the genuine 1st Division sides are still a good few steps ahead and the combined competition will not do them any favours from a scoreboard standpoint.
That said, a draw against a now top four side in Coffs City United Lionesses earlier in the season shows that there is some substance about this crop of girls, and they will hope to keep Boambee Eagles ‘2’s hands full as they travel to Ayrshire Park in round 9 after regrouping over the long weekend. A result in that fixture would be just the ticket ahead of their round 10 bye and the hunger will be stronger than ever to create another memorable moment in this campaign.
Trevor Martin’s Raiders ‘1’ had been looking forward to their encounter with Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’, in what appeared to be an opportunity to establish which side would be the most credible contender for Premiership honours aside from the obvious candidates in Boambee Eagles ‘1’. Martin knew it would be ‘a true test of where [his girls stood] in football terms when facing a top tier side, and also as an indicator of whether [their] training targets and methods were heading [them] in the right direction to challenge for the title’.
The Wildcats were smarting from a draw the previous week and the Raiders thus believed themselves to be in the box seat to capitalise on the mini form slump and steal a march on their fellow Premiership aspirants. Martin was by and large able to name a strong side, with only his regular goalkeeper unavailable, so Zali Rees once again stepped into the role while Kate Fry deputised in the left wing back role made vacant by Rees’ positional reshuffle.
The early exchanges of the game saw both sides sharing possession in something of a feeling out process, as each looked to settle into the game. Urunga’s focus was on getting players forward and taking the game to the visitors, and Woolgoolga appeared slightly unprepared for the sheer directness of the Raiders’ approach. After just 8 minutes, a neat chip from Jordan Healy on the left-hand side of the box found Jackie Kambere, who made no mistake and gave the Raiders an early lead after a well-constructed attack.
The nerves were settled somewhat by the breakthrough, but the Raiders had already anticipated the blowback and knew Woopi were going to come back hard. Martin’s side continued to look the more engaged and kept up their forward momentum, battling hard to retain possession. On occasion, the Wildcats were able to break, more often than not utilising the pace of their attackers to get in behind enemy lines. The Raiders’ Steph Morrison and Brontie Barrera were alive to the danger, however, and the home side were thus able to keep proceedings largely in the middle and front thirds while creating shooting opportunities of their own.
Under the weight of sustained attacking pressure from the Urunga girls, Woopi coughed up a corner and a great delivery from Healy was headed toward the back post by Belinda Moore. Moore’s header was itself headed goalwards by Kambere and after just 15 minutes of football it was 2-0 Raiders. Martin was careful to ensure his girls did not grow complacent though and urged them to continue the pressure and hunger they had displayed thus far.
Woolgoolga duly lifted their intensity and worked harder to press in midfield and force Urunga to make quicker decisions. With the increase in pressure from Woopi came a surge in the general tempo of the football on display and the home team were suddenly looking the less sprightly of the two sides. Running freely at defenders, the speedsters in the Wildcats attack were creating all manner of problems in the Raiders’ back third and the girls in blue were building confidence with every passing moment.
Time on the ball was now a luxury no longer afforded to any midfielder on either side and Woopi were looking to play through balls in behind the Raiders defence at every possible opportunity. On one occasion, Tanisha Wallace set off on a run and the chasing Barrera lost her feet in an attempt to slow Wallace down. Home and hosed, Wallace buried the chance and in doing so halved the deficit for her side. Martin’s frustrations at his girls’ lack of game awareness to not play the whistle when they were convinced a clear free kick should have been awarded were evident, though he was quick to credit Wallace’s tenacity in capitalising on the opening.
As the sides went into the sheds with the score at 2-1 to the Raiders, the pendulum was undoubtedly swinging very much in Woolgoolga’s favour and the result was still in the balance. Little tactical variance was on show in the initial passages of play in the second half, but the crispness of the passing in Urunga’s midfield was ramped up a notch or two and Martin had reinforced the need to get ahead in the individual battles during his half time talk – a piece of advice that the players were taking on board to noticeable effect.
The Raiders had come out of the sheds looking as they did during the opening stages of the first half, and before long Ash Mackie received a ball on the edge of the box at the end of a play that had originated right from the back. She was able to release the ball quickly from her feet and shoot neatly to restore the two goal advantage. At 3-1, Martin said a collective sigh of relief was evident, but Woolgoolga weren’t about to go away quietly.
Kim Batty’s girls responded positively to the setback and lifted their level once again. They continued to get forward and test the maroon defensive line, with the battle on the flank between Wallace and Fry providing entertainment for the crowd at the Patch. The Wildcats’ strength on set pieces was clear, as they posed a constant threat from corners and free kicks with the dangerous Chloe Wighton on the ball. Wighton drilled corners low and hard into a crowded box and created some dicey moments for the Raiders backline to deal with. They held strong, though, and were able to clear their lines well under pressure.
With not a great deal of time left on the clock, Mackie once again found herself in some space in the Woolgoolga box and buried her second of the afternoon to take the score to 4-1 and push the margin out of reach for the visiting Wildcats. That would be that as far as the scoring was concerned, and Martin said it had been a great display of quality football from both sides. It was a match with plenty of talking points – not least the controversial free kick awarded to Woolgoolga when Morrison was adjudged to have impeded an attacker on the edge of the box – but one that perhaps gave an additional sense of clarity to the status quo in the upper reaches of the table this season.
Raiders ‘2’ had a less successful day out as they went down 3-zip to Bellingen Victory in the curtain raiser at the Patch. A less than stellar run of form has them in the midst of a four game losing streak, something they would not have anticipated at the outset of the campaign and something Martin will be keen to arrest as soon as possible in order to salvage some pride from a season that has thus far yielded just one win from their opening eight games.
Both sides travel in round 9 as Raiders ‘1’ head to Connell Park to take on the Victory in a match they would have earmarked as a strong win, and Raiders ‘2’ travel south to Macksville to take on a Stingers side looking as good as they have since last year’s victorious 2nd Division campaign. It shapes as one of the games of the round and should be a highly entertaining spectacle of attacking football.
Wildcats ‘2’ went to Dairyville missing a few regular defenders and ran into a Dingoes side firing on all cylinders. In arguably the most entertaining game of season 2018 thus far, an absolute attacking firestorm played out as the Woopi girls ultimately went down 5-4 in a veritable goalscoring blitz. Losing key players to injury as the match wore on, the Wildcats ‘2’s struggled to finish the game with the bare 11 still on the field.
Manager Rachel Baston said the main strength of her girls came via the wings, while Orara prevailed primarily up the centre of the park as well as being just a kitten’s whisker ahead in the finishing stakes. Both teams created a plethora of scoring opportunities throughout and while the Wildcats were disappointed to come away from the encounter without any points, they reflected sagely on the way things played out.
Baston says there were many takeaways from the game in terms of potential areas of improvement for her girls, and they will no doubt be running rigorously through these on the training paddock over the next fortnight, with the competition break over the long weekend allowing them a bit of extra time to work on various structures and combinations ahead of the somewhat bizarre event of an intra-club derby in round 9 against the Wildcats ‘1’ side.
Those girls spent Saturday afternoon down at Morgo Street and turned on what captain-coach Kim Batty said was one of their better performances of the season despite ultimately being outgunned by the hometown heroes. Batty said it was a physical but fair encounter and a highly enjoyable game to play, with end to end football on display.
With the regular Wildcats ‘1’ custodian going away to Russia for 6 weeks to watch the World Cup, the girls have been left somewhat stranded in the goalkeeping stakes and have had to rely on a ‘short straw’ method of choosing who has to spend each game between the sticks. Batty is extremely grateful for the support of the Wildcats ‘2’ players who have been coming to fill in after their own games each week – depending obviously on where and when their fixtures take place – and this factor was key on Saturday as Jess Midavaine showed up by half time to take the gloves from the relieved Jorja Murphy, who had until that point been asked to step into the role.
Midavaine performed her duties exceptionally in the second half and pulled off a string of excellent saves. Batty gave credit to her whole team and said that ‘everyone really stepped up a level from previous games and put in a huge effort individually and as a team’. The Wildcats camp are not greatly disheartened by the result – ultimately a 4-1 loss in a game that was far more competitive than the scoreline might suggest – and retain a great sense of belief and optimism about their prospects over the remainder of the season.
They will have to struggle through the challenge of having no regular keeper for a large chunk of the season, but will put that to one side in their rather awkward round 9 fixture against Wildcats ‘2’ at High Street. These ‘intra-club derbies’ are never eagerly anticipated by the coaching staff or the players – indeed this season is the first in top flight local senior competition for quite some time that such an occurrence has played out at all – and are often treated as borderline friendlies despite points being on offer. It’s hard to see this one as being any different, but hopefully the Woopi camp will be able to use this fixture as an opportunity to try a few new things and give some of the girls a few in-game learning experiences.