By Tim Klingbiel
Kim Barker’s Victory hosted Rachael Oberleuter’s Scorpions in a round 5 meeting between two fine ambassadors of women’s football and their respective protégés, with their mirroring values of positive guidance and support as well as years of experience setting the scene for a well matched game of football played in the right spirit.
The Victory started positively and created numerous attacks before a powerful low strike from midfielder Sam Barker drew the Sawtell custodian into action. The shot was parried into the path of the supporting Bellingen attackers, but they were unable to capitalise on the rebound. Not long afterwards, the Scorpions launched an attack of their own, and referee Bruce Mackie awarded them with a free kick after a handball from a Bellingen defender. The strike was saved well by the Bellingen keeper on a blustery afternoon that was making everyone’s life difficult.
With the atmospheric conditions necessitating a ‘deck ball’ style of play, it became a battle of control and precision, and a couple of errant passes from the Victory opened things up for the Scorpions, who earnt a couple of corners and put the home side under pressure. Manager Deb Baigent noted that midfielder Lauren Rigney in particular was outstanding and shouldered a huge workload in the first half.
Sawtell thought they had their opener as they unleashed a strike that bounced back out off the underside of the crossbar after appearing to move the net. No goal was awarded and the ball was safely cleared by the Victory defence. But justice was ultimately done for the Scorpions as they were able to score the opener less than 60 seconds later.
The girls had their work cut out if they were to find the equaliser before the interval. Winger Cath Hawkshaw did her best to create a moment of magic but her shot was ably dealt with by Sawtell’s vociferous keeper. But the Bellingen attackers refused to relent and from sheer persistence, they were able to find the equaliser in the 38th minute from a quality sequence of place. A well-orchestrated throw in from Rigney found ‘pocket rocket’ Jordy Guest, who weaved deftly through the Sawtell backline and rifled the ball into the back of the net to loud cheers from the local support.
Both coaches made the most of the half time break with motivation and a plethora of information on the menu. Baigent speculated whether information overload, anxiety, a surfeit of glucose courtesy of overenthusiastic red frog ingestion or simply the gale force winds on the afternoon was the primary catalyst, but a 47th minute free kick to Sawtell found a gaggle of Victory defenders in a jumbled mess struggling to figure out who was who in the zoo, and the end result was the ball sailing over everyone and rolling softly over the line to hand the Scorpions a 2-1 lead.
With Bello suddenly on the back foot again, they took the setback as a chance to regroup and responded in positive fashion. Some solid build up play on the right flank through Ash Harris and Sophie Russell allowed the Victory to get back on the attack. Newcomer Emma Russell positioned herself well and was unlucky not to find the net after some great runs at the back stick. Both teams had several opportunities to score and it was a thoroughly entertaining spectacle for the onlookers who rode the waves of emotion with each narrowly missed shot.
Assistant coach Jackson Stanmore had been assigned to strategic duties, and was ironing out positional play on the fly. A few minor tweaks allowed the Victory to maintain relentless pressure in attack, and a piece of individual brilliance from Sam Barker, who had spent the entirety of the game under heavy marking, saw her beat three defenders and rifle the ball straight through the Sawtell keeper’s legs for the equaliser.
With 15 minutes on the clock, there were a few nervy passages of play for both sides but it was the Victory who finished the stronger, gaining the ascendancy with the weight of possession tipping in their favour. Full time sounded at 2-2 and the match and result had been just as tight as anticipated. On the balance of play it was a fair outcome for both teams and neither coach walked away disappointed.
Round 6’s fixture against Corindi Breakers saw the Victory at Connell Park once again. The Bellingen ladies started as brightly as they had done all season, pressing hard for the first quarter of an hour and keeping the Breakers defenders busy. Baigent noted that the Victory unit of Allison Kedzlie, Sam Barker and Lauren Rigney were proving a force to be reckoned with and winger Cath Hawkshaw was relentless up the right side.
The Breakers defence became frustrated with the amount of pressure they were being put under by the Bello girls, and a rampaging run from Kedzlie drew an egregious foul as she bore down on goal in the 15th minute. Taken out from behind and copping a knee to the head, Kedzlie was forced off and the home side had lost one of their main attacking outlets. The awarding of a penalty was some comfort, though, and Barker slotted the ball comfortably in the bottom right corner to give the Victory the lead.
Baigent said the girls in black and white really began to click following the opener, and combinations from Rigney, Jordy Guest and Molly Odgers produced some excellent plays. The defence too was indomitable, as every Corindi attack was being snuffed out by central defender Hannah Watt and goalkeeper Ella Jandzio-Fry. With Bellingen continuing their domination in attack during the period leading up to half time, they were able to earn a flurry of corners and challenge the Corindi defence and goalkeeper on numerous occasions.
With just minutes remaining until half time, Corindi counter-attacked and Jandzio-Fry courageously committed to rushing out to the edge of her box and challenging for a 50/50 ball. Unfortunately, she clashed with an attacker and after an unintentional knee to the forehead, she was ruled unfit to continue. Having now lost two key performers to head injuries, the Victory were forced to move the versatile Hawkshaw in between the sticks.
During the break, Barker stressed to the Victory girls the importance of being clinical in front of goal, with so many chances going begging due to shooting inaccuracy and difficulties getting into the right position to apply the crucial final touch. A plethora of crosses and corners had the Breakers defence weathering an aerial assault so it seemed only a matter of time until this would pay dividends for Bello.
Now with a heightened awareness of what was required to get the job done, the girls in black and white returned after the break by picking up right where they left off in terms of attacking dominance, though the accuracy of their shooting was improving as several shots were now missing by only a kitten’s whisker. Strong lead up play in the 55th minute saw Rigney, Emma Webster and Sam Barker employing a composed approach in possession, which ultimately resulted in a great goal by Rigney, who slotted the ball perfectly into the top right corner to double the advantage.
Diminutive but determined winger Melanie Green was influential in the game, and her tireless work on the left flank allowed her to get into supportive positions for the bulk of the Victory’s attacks. The home side welcome the battle-scarred yet eager Kedzlie back on to the pitch, and they enjoyed a period of sheer control with Corindi touches on the ball seeming rarer than rocking horse guano.
Kedzlie’s reintroduction was crucial, as she made an excellent run to beat her marker and rifle the ball into the top left corner off the underside of the bar. It was a bullet strike to hand the Victory a three goal advantage and served as a catalyst to spur them on to sustain their in-game superiority. An acrobatic attempt from Kedzlie soon followed, though she was unable to connect on the cross.
The Breakers hadn’t quite said their piece though, as a rapid attack put the home side’s defence under pressure and caught Hawkshaw out of goals in an attempt to extinguish the play. Guest was forced to turn on the afterburners to steam in and make a scrambling and athletic goal line clearance, and the desperation to retain the clean sheet was palpable – and admirable.
Another frenzy of Bello corners had the Breakers on the back foot once again, and a tantalising Barker cross found Guest in amongst a throng of players in the box. Guest made no mistake and swiftly deposited the loose ball into the net – within just a few minutes she had been involved in two critical pieces of goalmouth action at each end, and this time she made it 4-0 for the Victory.
That would be that on the afternoon and it was a first win for the season for the Bello ladies, which elevated them to tenth on the ladder. The test they will undergo in round 7 will be altogether more rigorous, though, as they take on a puissant Boambee Eagles ‘1’ side refreshed after a week off. It will no doubt be an excellent learning experience for this squad though, and if they can manage to pull off a shock result it would be one of the biggest headlines in NCF senior football for quite some time.
Rounds 5 and 6 saw two close and tough games for Eagles ‘2’, with results going both ways. Firstly, they took on Nambucca in the amphitheatre of Coronation Park. The first 20 minutes of play went according to plan as the Eagles dominated the midfield, though things could have been better in attack as they were having quite some difficulty in finding the target despite a wealth of shooting opportunities.
A concentration lapse meant the Eagles lost their shape and only minutes before half time, the Strikers were able to take advantage of some sloppy defensive play to break the deadlock. The teams went into the sheds at 1-0 to the home side and Boambee coach Fiona Clancy knew her girls had an uphill battle ahead of them in what had been a tight arm wrestle up to that point.
The Eagles didn’t mess about though, and returned with some strong football after the break to control the flow of play once again. With the weight of possession behind them, they were able to produce an improved display of shooting to find the target with much greater regularity, but Nambucca goalkeeper Carly Smith was absolutely immense between the sticks, her performance drawing high praise from Clancy who asserted that it was ‘some of the best keeping [she has] seen in the women’s comp this season’.
A few more chances fell the way of the Eagles with a number of crosses flashing across goal, but they lacked the killer blow and were repeatedly unable to connect. At full time the score remained 1-0 to the home side and the Eagles would have to head back to Ayrshire Park with their collective tails between their legs. It was a disappointing defeat and undoubtedly a setback to their finals charge, but with Orara Valley Dingoes awaiting the following week they would have an opportunity to make amends in what would surely be another game of fine margins.
Eagles ‘2’ travelled to Dairyville a player light, as one squad member had evidently misjudged the preparation and travel time involved with packing up a campsite and arriving at OV1 for a game of football. Nonetheless, she eventually did arrive and took the field after a quarter of an hour of play to give her side a full complement of 11. This coincided with a slight brain fade for the Boambee girls, who had switched off slightly after welcoming the extra player into the fold, and the Dingoes were able to sneak a goal that caught most by surprise.
Having given up the lead, the Eagles knew it was time for business, and the ever dependable Kath Vail took things by the scruff of the neck to level up the contest only a few minutes later with a well balanced strike to beat the Orara custodian. The teams went to the break at 1-1 but with the Eagles appearing the stronger.
The girls from Boambee were spirited following the interval and attacked strongly and consistently. Ultimately they were able to take the lead for the first time in the game through Bree Rooney, who nudged the ball past the Dingoes keeper, who got a strong glove on the ball and almost kept the shot out, to make it 2-1. It may be one of Rooney’s last hurrahs for the season as her baby is due to arrive around finals time, so this lent added significance to the goal for her.
Within just a few minutes, the Eagles had another – Kahla ‘Chook’ Craig set off on a run up the right flank and unleashed a strike from distance that sailed past the keeper. The Eagles were starting to run on empty, as it was a stifling afternoon at Dairyville and with just the bare 11 to call on – ten of whom had also run 15 minutes while down a player – fresh legs were at a premium. The slick possession play and attacking verve petered out at this point, and Clancy said her girls were just doing what needed to be done in order to finish with the three points in hand.
Eagles ‘2’ duly did so, and with a full time score of 3-1 they were able to recapture the all important factors of morale and momentum while reigniting their finals charge. After six games they sit in sixth position on the ladder, but this weekend’s fixture against Wildcats ‘1’ is virtually as difficult as it gets and every member of the squad will have to put their best foot forward if they are to pick up a result.
Glenn Bennett’s Eagles ‘1’ hosted the Dingoes in round 5, and they turned on a festival of attacking football for the home crowd. Kylie McDonald opened the scoring in the 4th minute, before netting her second in the 11th minute off an inch perfect corner from Keira Plumbe. A chip over the advancing Orara keeper sealed McDonald’s hat trick, with a bustling run through the middle following a quick counter-attack – straight off the boot of Boambee keeper Di Walker – resulting in her fourth, and another to make it five for her before half time. Rebekah Oberleuter grabbed two on her outfield return from injury, while her sister Bianca – courtesy of a powerful and well placed curling free kick off her left foot – and Siobhan Deam each scored one.
With the half time score at 9-0, and Orara having only troubled the Boambee goal on a couple of occasions without being able to muster a particularly serious challenge, the result was a foregone conclusion, so the Eagles opted to experiment a little and pushed regular keeper Walker up into the midfield. The move paid almost immediate dividends as Walker converted a well-angled strike in the 50th minute. McDonald nabbed her sixth in the 55th minute with a marauding run through the crumbling Dingoes defensive line.
The attacking onslaught from the Eagles did not let up and the stamina of the Boambee girls was stretching the travelling Dingoes beyond breaking point. Three more goals to McDonald, each memorable in their own way, followed – one from just outside the box that left the keeper cemented to the spot, another from a follow up header after a saved penalty, and yet another from a great run straight up the centre of the park. The final Eagles goal came from part-time outfielder Walker again, who positioned herself well to get on the end of a sharp and precise cross from Deam to grab her brace and the Eagles’ 15th without reply.
Boambee manager John Walker praised the Dingoes’ enthusiasm and willingness to stay in the game until the end, observing that they showed plenty of potential and specifically lauding the ‘outstanding’ contributions of captain Helen Moseley who was ‘absolutely everywhere on the field’ and proved a key cog in both defence and attack.
Eagles ‘1’ had a bye in round 6 but return to action this weekend as they host Bellingen Victory and look to maintain their 100% start to 2018 and their lengthy undefeated streak which now stretches to 26 games in NCF competition. One would figure the title race to ultimately come down to Eagles ‘1’, Wildcats ‘1’ and Raiders ‘1’, and with only three points separating first and fifth, it’s absolutely crucial that there are no slip ups for Bennett’s girls if they are to seal another premiership this season.
Coffs City United Lionesses
The Lionesses have quietly built up an impressive start to the season, with three wins and a draw in their first six games. Round 5’s 3-0 defeat to Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ at High Street was hardly unexpected given their opposition’s standing as the competition’s current second ranked side and veterans of a razor-thin 1st Division grand final loss in 2017, but the Lionesses acquitted themselves well and turned on an excellent defensive and goalkeeping performance to make the Wildcats’ lives difficult. Opposition coach Kim Batty noted that the Lionesses will be a side to watch this season and it’s not faint praise for the ladies in red and black.
Round 6 saw an absolute nailbiter away to Macksville as the scores were locked at 0-0 until the final 10 minutes, when the determined Lionesses were able to break through with two crucial strikes to seal a 2-0 result in their favour and take home the three points. It was a gritty win and the ability they have shown when it comes down to outlasting their opponents in gruelling arm wrestles will stand them in great stead for the remainder of the season and breed untold confidence within the squad. They now know they have what it takes to prevail in tight games and should accordingly collect several more points along the way in 2018.
A tough home game against Urunga Raiders ‘2’ awaits this weekend, but there’s nothing to say the girls from Forsyth Park can’t get the job done, and a win there could at least temporarily elevate them to as high as fourth on the ladder. There’s definitely a lot of life in this campaign for the Lionesses and if they get the result on Saturday, they will certainly announce their arrival as a real dark horse in the competition and force several opposition sides to start looking over their shoulders.
It’s been a tough start – or maybe more appropriately, restart – to life in senior women’s football for the Breakers, but these girls continue to improve in leaps and bounds every week and their last two showings away to Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’, where they went down 5-0, and Bellingen Victory, where they were on the wrong side of a 4-0 result, were not short on positive moments.
The Bellingen game in particular was punctuated by a number of bright moments and the margin of defeat, while continuing to narrow every week, still probably doesn’t tell the story of the efforts these Breakers ladies are putting in. Still without a goal in their opening five games, their attackers have been better than that statistic would suggest, and this weekend’s home game against Orara Valley Dingoes may just provide the chance they need to finally get off the mark in front of goal.
There is still a long way left in the season and while it’s fairly safe to say the Breakers won’t be featuring in finals football come September, it’s fantastic to see such a proud club with a team back in the division and the local competition is better off for having them there. The experience these players are gaining every week under the tutelage of Donna Smith is invaluable and with several young members within the side, the groundwork is being laid for an excellent team in a few years’ time. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron, and by playing against established 1st Division sides week in, week out, the Breakers will themselves become one of those contenders in due course.
Round 5 saw the Stingers with the week off, and it had been well earned after a tough start to the season against some red hot ex-1st Division sides and most notably the critical breakthrough in round 4 that saw them rack up their first win of 2018 against Sawtell Scorpions.
Last week’s result was an altogether more bitter pill to swallow though. In a back and forth battle with Coffs City United Lionesses at their Bellevue Drive home ground, it was a steadfast defensive display by both sets of ladies as they went to half time with the score at 0-0. Stand in Stingers keeper Sarah Mander produced an inspired performance in what manager Deb Turner dubbed ‘an extraordinary job’.
Unfortunately for the Stingers, key performer Minki Laow was carried off the field after colliding with an opposition player, and things went downhill as fatigue began to set in. The Lionesses were able to put two past Mander in the final 10 minutes to seal the win, and it was a case of ‘so close, yet so far’ for the Macksville girls.
They will need to regroup this weekend as they make the short trip to Coronation Park to take on Nambucca Strikers in a local derby. The Strikers have started the season well and have three wins to the Stingers’ one at present, so it will be a tall order if Pete Turner’s ladies are to make up ground on their local rivals. But with more fit personnel – a luxury they have rarely enjoyed in 2018 with numbers regularly proving a struggle and one forfeit already down on the ledger – they should certainly be a threat, and having retained the nucleus of the victorious 2nd Division side from 2017, there is still a winning DNA within this group.
Round 5 was an emotional weekend for the Strikers as they hosted a day of football to honour the memory of club life member, Jo Deans. Having trained solidly in the week leading up to the game, the girls were back to full capacity and looked primed for an important victory against a tough Boambee Eagles ‘2’ side.
It was the away team who started the more positive of the two, an early shot on goal waking up the Strikers girls and kicking them into gear. Coach Clay Urquhart said the midfield was a battlefield, with Emily Lane and Amie Goswell having their work cut out early as well as the defensive line. The attacking efforts of Anna Champion and Zara Pastega were largely nullified and they were forced into assisting at the back more than being proactive up top due to the Eagles’ suffocating presence.
A tactical switch midway through the opening stanza was brought about as a result of the game’s frenetic pace – Champion and Pastega made way for Charlotte Williams and Jordan, with Williams playing as a 9 and Jordan slotting into a now-five strong midfield. Sam Walsh had worked her socks off and was replaced by the fresh legs of Keily Chase on the flank.
These new introductions had a positive effect from the get go, as the weight of possession began to shift the way of the Strikers, threatening through Williams whose speed and determination caused the Boambee backline no end of headaches. In what Urquhart described as an inspired piece of play, Chase pressured the Eagles into a mistake and played an inch perfect through ball to Williams, who outpaced her marker and prodded the opener past the Eagles custodian. The supporters were in raptures and the Strikers were able to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
The second half was punctuated by some physical play, and the Eagles came back with a period of excellent football to test Strikers keeper Carly Smith on several occasions. With a string of fingertip saves, brave stops under heavy fire, point blank reaction blocks and excellent reading of the game, she was equal to everything Boambee threw her way, with Urquhart calling her performance ‘superb’.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Pastega and Walsh re-entered the fray, rejuvenated from a spell on the bench. The running of Walsh up and down the flank sparked another momentum shift back to the home side, and it was one of these runs that earnt a penalty as she nipped away from her marker and was brought down inside the area. The Strikers were unable to convert, though, and the slender single goal advantage remained.
The composed Luwarna Cohen was playing an assured brand of football at the back that belied her tender years, and linked up well on the left hand side with her older sister Kyiesha. The latter offered a pacy outlet on the wing and was regularly creating space in behind the Eagles line, and it was one of these incursions that almost delivered the Strikers’ second as she teed up Williams, who ultimately fell just short of claiming her brace.
Coach Urquhart said that Cheree Chapman and Melissa Urquhart were playing season best performances in the backline, and their focus was essential in the game’s dying stages with the result still very much in the balance. With mere seconds on the clock, the Eagles were able to burst through the defensive line and close in on Smith one on one, but Smith put her body on the line with minimal regard for self-preservation and leapt at the feet of the striker to collect the ball and protect her clean sheet. There was visible relief amongst the strong and partisan crowd who had been riding the tension of the moment, and the Strikers just held on in a match full of entertainment and high drama.
Round 6 saw the girls travel to Toormina Oval, where the sheer size of the pitch meant that energy levels would play an important role. The game was a story of many vicissitudes, as momentum swung back and forth without either side ever really being able to obtain a clear advantage. The Champion was putting in a wired performance as she supported attacker Williams at one moment and then helped out in defence the next. Goalkeeper Smith was not called into action nearly as much as the previous week, with Chapman marshalling the backline with authority and defiance.
The Strikers midfield were rotated effectively throughout the match on an afternoon where everyone was seemingly running a half marathon equivalent. The cooperation between Terri White and Ella Lewis was excellent and Walsh, Pastega and Simone Jordan were all performing solidly and reliably. A well weighted corner from Pastega in the 80th minute created havoc in the Scorpions box, and Williams reacted quickest to poke home the winner.
The Nambucca girls held out for the remainder of the game and took home a second consecutive 1-0 victory with a second consecutive Williams winner. Round 7 sees them host the Macksville Stingers in a local derby, and all signs point to the result being just as tight as their last two. For a side managed by an attacker in Clay Urquhart, they certainly look to be building a stoic and resolute defence, and having kept two straight clean sheets, opposition sides will have their work cut out to break these girls down.
Orara Valley Dingoes
In a quirky competition where a side with a +53 goal difference after five games sits in 5th spot on the ladder, while a side with -30 in the Dingoes sits in eighth spot – above five other teams – anything can still happen and the Dingoes definitely need to hold their heads high. Two tough weeks played out in rounds 5 and 6, but there is still a long way to go in the season and a lot of time to develop.
They were, in coach Helen Moseley’s own words, ‘outrun and outskilled’ in round 5’s 15-0 defeat to Boambee Eagles ‘1’, but their refusal to give in and the relentless pressure they displayed until the final whistle are heartening signs for the future and there is no shame in going down to the form team in the entire competition over the past few years. Moseley said that her girls were still happy with their performance and see the game as a positive, and it is this attitude that will serve them well as they continue to grow and develop in the competition and experience what it is like to play against exceptionally well drilled and experienced units each week.
Round 6 showed some more positive signs, as the Orara girls took on Eagles ‘2’ at home. Moseley observed that they looked great from the warm up and started as positively as possible with an early goal from Paige Thornber to take the lead in the first half. They went to the break at 1-1 and looked a good chance of a result, but the experience of the Eagles ‘2’ girls proved telling. The Dingoes continued to create a number of attacking opportunities but were outdone by slick passing and clinical finishing, and once they went 3-1 down they were unable to claw back the deficit. Moseley’s girls are using each game as a learning experience and she noted that this one was a decent indicator of where they sit in terms of the hierarchy of the competition as a whole.
This weekend they travel up to Corindi to take on a Breakers side who have not yet scored this season. The Dingoes would fancy themselves as favourites for this one, but they can’t afford any lapses in concentration as the Breakers too have been improving every week and have turned on a couple of decent performances that the scorelines perhaps didn’t quite justify. Moseley will have them well prepared though, and her own talismanic and herculean on-field efforts have been and will continue to be instrumental in the Dingoes’ future success.
The Scorpions had a nailbiter in round 5 against Bellingen at Connell Park. It was a game that swung back and forth throughout and the final result of 2-2 was a fair indication of the balance of play. It had been a hard earned point and they would have fancied their chances of picking up a result at home against Nambucca the following week.
That scenario wasn’t to be though, as Rachael Oberleuter’s girls were ultimately outdone by an 80th minute goalmouth scrap following a corner that nestled in their net and broke the hearts of the green and white faithful. Though they sit second from bottom after six games played, they have been right in four of those – barring the Wildcats ‘1’ and Macksville defeats, results against Urunga (where they went down 2-0) and Nambucca just last week would not at all have been out of the realms of possibility, while the Bello draw and another point against Coffs United were extremely closely contested encounters.
The Scorpions did not field a women’s side in 2017, so the squad this season has been assembled quickly and they are only just beginning to gel on the field. With this in mind, it’s likely the girls in green will be picking up a few more points towards the back end of the season in addition to the obvious benefits of experience that they are gaining every week. This weekend’s encounter with Urunga Raiders ‘1’, however, might just be a bridge too far at this stage of their development, with Trevor Martin’s girls rifling home an imposing 59 goals after just five games. Sawtell will need to be at their defensive best to stay in the contest for this one.
A strange scenario played out in round 5 as Urunga Raiders ‘1’ and ‘2’ played against one another. As had occurred with Boambee a couple of weeks back, the coaching staff approached this fixture with some trepidation and to an extent confusion given the multitude of factors at play. Coach Trevor Martin, who looks after both ‘1’ and ‘2’, found himself in a position comparable to cornering two fighters from the same camp – as he noted, ‘on the one hand [he needed] to keep [his] first grade building and improving to make sure [his] new recruits this season learn and understand [the team’s] playing style and at the same time try and keep the second team competitive and improving’.
Knowing from recent results that Team 1 were going to be front runners and Team 2 would struggle, Martin spoke with both teams at length to point out the need ‘to keep Team 1 on the front foot and to treat the encounter as a training game and ignore the scoreline’. Team 1 started with just nine players. With regular goalkeeper Jess Snow caught up at work, Zali Rees stood in for the first 40 minutes and the backline had to be adjusted to compensate.
Both teams started the game brightly and Martin notes that Team 2 have come a long way in their tactical approach to the game. They were able to hold good shape and move the ball around well, with hard work off the ball. Composure in possession was a priority. Team 1, though, were just a step ahead in general play, with superior stamina, crisper passing and better understanding of positional roles making life tough for their counterparts.
After a quarter of an hour, Team 1 had seized the lead. They had been coached to work on the things they had been doing at training and focus on their shape and movement, and Martin was not disappointed, as he noted that their goals ‘were all created via combinations and patient building as requested, and their disciplined approach to working as a unit was encouraging’.
Martin also praised Team 2 for working just as hard at their own team tasks and sticking to script despite finding it tough going. He said they played some attractive football, with Sarah Vidler creating scoring opportunities from midfield and Hannah Smith constantly looking to go on the attack. The battle between Smith and Serine Brandie on the wing was one of the highlights of the day.
Martin commended both his teams for their approach to the game and said that ‘if we can ignore the scoreline (easy to say), [he believes] both teams took something from this game – no winners or losers from [his] perspective, just an opportunity to keep building for finals’. It seemed the Raiders had taken the unfortunate reality of the combined competition on the chin and made the best of a bad situation.
Team 2 followed the tough outing with a trip to High Street to take on the powerful Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ side. Despite their recent improvement, the Raiders ‘2’s were primarily looking to make life hard for their northern opponents and improve their possession percentages and tactical game rather than specifically prioritising the result. With four regular starters having already played the 1pm fixture for Team 1 and their regular keeper missing, Team 2 knew they would have to dig deep.
The early passages of play were marked by great shape from the Urunga girls, who were not only stringing together passes but looking to be proactive and get forward. This enterprising style put Woolgoolga unexpectedly on the back foot at times, but the solidity of the home side’s defence prevented the Raiders from claiming an early lead, and Martin noted that the final ball from his girls was not quite up to scratch.
The Wildcats were looking lethal in attack and their speed and willingness to shoot was creating headaches, though the Raiders backline were largely equal to the task and their determination allowed them to break down a string of Woopi surges forward. Ultimately the persistence of the Wildcats paid off and their approach of pulling the trigger from anywhere within a 30 yard radius of goal delivered two first half goals past the stand in keeper.
Injury and illness cruelled the Raiders and over the course of the next 60 minutes, they lost a number of key players and had to battle on understaffed. To their credit, they continued to force the issue and never allowed Woolgoolga to relax, approaching the game with an inspiring level of intensity. Despite the final scoreline of 7-0 to the Wildcats, Martin said his girls came away feeling proud of their efforts and they have built an immense amount of character through the tough draw they have faced in the early rounds of the competition.
This positivity going forward will be essential this weekend as they take on an ever improving Coffs City United Lionesses side away at McLean Street. One would have to think this will be a very close game based on the respective recent form of these two teams, and the Raiders will be hoping to have more fully fit girls available on the afternoon to ensure their viking longship does not run aground late on once again.
Raiders ‘1’ took on Woolgoolga ‘2’ in round 6, making the journey up the highway short of four regular starters and having to call heavily upon the Team 2 squad to fill the side. With a typical structured approach to their football under Martin’s guidance, so many personnel changes can have a substantial effect when the newer players are not acutely aware of their role as a cog in the greater machine, but Martin was confident that his replacements would fill the gaps adequately and felt positive that they would perform well.
The Wildcats ‘2’ had yet to suffer defeat over the first five games of the season, so Martin knew complacency could not be on the menu for his girls and stressed that they take the game on its merits. The Wildcats used their pace in attack to test the makeshift Raiders backline and were not backward in coming forward, but with the influential Steph Morrison back in the lineup to marshal the troops, the girls in maroon responded well and began looking more solid.
Martin suggested that his side were perhaps slightly below their usual intensity when going forward, but they were still doing enough to create opportunities for their front four. A regular scorer for the Raiders of late in Jackie Kambere was being marked tightly by the Wildcats defenders, but she was still able to hold the ball up and bring other Raiders into the play. A rare moment in space for Kambere allowed her to lay the ball off to Belinda Moore, who opened the scoring for Urunga.
The girls in maroon have excellent depth in attack and Moore’s midfield dominance was causing all kinds of problems too. Whether finding space sitting just behind the strikers or unleashing excellent free kicks, everything seemed to be going Moore’s way on the afternoon and she ultimately grabbed another three goals.
The Wildcats didn’t let up though and kept searching for attacking opportunities. A moment of confusion between fullback and goalkeeper allowed one of the Woopi strikers to profit with a simple tap in, her willingness to follow up the loose ball serving her well. The Raiders responded well to the setback, and Ash Mackie was running at the home side’s defence on the right edge to show that it wasn’t just Moore that the Northern Beaches girls needed to worry about. Mackie was ruthless and took the chances on offer to bang home two late on.
This would be the last the scorers would be troubled and the final count was 6-1, underscoring a dominant performance for the Urunga girls. Martin opined that although he was happy that his girls got the job done and came away with the result, the missing players affected the structure somewhat and his ladies were somewhat below the level they would ordinarily expect. It is this kind of perfectionism that will serve them well in a competition that looks as if it will come right down to the wire with three clear and strong contenders already emerging.
Martin was encouraged to see the Team 2 players step up and contribute without his side losing a great deal of effectiveness, and feels relieved that the issues the club had struggled with in women’s football in past years of lack of depth no longer seem to be a factor. This weekend they travel to Toormina Oval to face a still nascent Sawtell Scorpions outfit who would look on paper to be overmatched at this point. The Raiders can’t rest on their laurels though, and need to deliver every single week to emerge on top in one of the most tightly contested finals races in years.
Wildcats ‘2’ continued their strong start to the season in round 5 with a convincing win over Corindi Breakers. Their passing improved as the match went on and they created attacking opportunities from both smooth team work with patient build-up play, and moments of individual flair. Rachael from Wildcats ‘2’ said that one of the game’s highlights was seeing both co-captains, Jess and Cass, get their names on the scoresheet.
The Wildcats ‘2’ attackers certainly weren’t starved of opportunities, as the hard working midfielders controlled possession and released the ball forward early. The defence banded together effectively to alleviate any pressure from the Breakers attack, and they were ultimately able to keep a clean sheet while putting five past the opposition keeper.
It was an altogether more difficult assignment in round 6 though, as the ‘2’s took on Urunga Raiders ‘1’. The backline just couldn’t seem to find a way to stop the Raiders’ Belinda Moore, who scored four on the day. After all was said and done, the Woopi girls went down 6-1, but these types of results are hardly unexpected when 2nd Division teams take on 1st Division ones. They have the bye this week and will look to regroup and recommence their quest for a coveted finals position.
The ‘1’s had a tough time breaking down the Coffs City United Lionesses in round 5, with the Coffs keeper doing her best impersonation of a brick wall to frustrate the Wildcats strikers. On Pink Sock Day at High Street, there was a festival atmosphere in the air, but Kim Batty’s girls knew they were going to have to earn the three points through blood and sweat rather than just partying their way to the win.
The strength of the Wildcats defence provided the foundation for much of their play, and Batty was proud of the way all of her backline stepped up and played out with confidence. The forwards weren’t without chances, but the seemingly impenetrable fortress of Lionesses denied them time after time. Eventually, the Wildcats poured more and more forward and were really attacking in numbers, supporting one another and getting shots away at every opportunity.
By full time, they had come away with a 3-0 victory, but Coffs made them work for it and Batty believes the Lionesses will be a team to watch going forward. She was pleased at the volume of her girls’ attacks, but added that she would like them to be putting more on target as wayward shooting almost proved to be their undoing.
Round 7 matched the ‘1’s up with Urunga Raiders ‘2’, who were somewhat understaffed. The game began looking like it would be quite close, but the flagging Raiders dropped like flies as the afternoon wore on and the strength and stamina of Woopi’s best proved far too much for them to deal with. Batty’s girls claimed a 7-0 win and the result allowed them to keep the pressure up on competition front runners Boambee Eagles ‘1’.
They will make a trip to Ayrshire Park this weekend to take on Eagles ‘2’ in a match they are expected to win, but this competition has already thrown up some interesting results and continues to surprise by the week. Every game for every team feels like a potential banana skin at the moment and Batty will be painfully aware that her ladies need to keep turning up and putting in their best effort to keep pace with the top dogs.