By Tim Klingbiel
The Victory travelled to Dairyville in round 14 to take on the Orara Valley Dingoes on a dry pitch. The battle that played out was as closely contested as many had anticipated. Victory manager Deb Baigent said the Orara girls were playing a swift and smooth brand of football, their young, speedy side able to regularly find gaps with great positioning and composed passing. Within five minutes of play, the Dingoes had taken the lead – Bello keeper Shae Heron positioned herself well and got a boot to the first close range shot, but despite having the attacker covered, a second free attacker ran through and scored in a two on one situation.
From the outset, it had been clear that Orara’s captain-coach Helen Moseley was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the number 5 shirt, and so it proved as she instructed with authority and dominated play. Bellingen’s Barb Webster was forced to aim up and Baigent said she did an incredible job shutting Moseley down. Allison Kedzlie was also in fine fettle, having been strategically placed wide on the right by coach Kim Barker with the intent of keeping a tight leash on Dingoes 9 Maddison Seccombe.
With the girls in black and white ramping up the pressure, goalscoring opportunities came about through both Barb and Emma Webster, Kedzlie and Bella Ashley as well as a strike from distance off the boot of an unwell Hannah Watt, who was desperately unlucky not to capitalise with the keeper off her line as a defender scampered back to clear the ball away. But the Victory simply could not break through and they went to half time with the score at 1-0 to their opponents.
For the majority of the second stanza, Bellingen made Orara sweat for everything and the home side repositioned Moseley into the heart of defence to fortify the backline. The Victory continued to challenge strongly and despite some great runs from Dingoes number 7, Jenna Hiscox, Zoe Webster was doing a great job at the back to tidy things up. Carrying an injury, keeper Heron was outstanding throughout and pulled off several great saves, including a fabulous double save from Seccombe who pushed Heron to the ground in frustration at her own inability to convert.
With just two minutes remaining and Bello trying their best to push forward in search of the equaliser, Orara countered to devastating effect and produced a second in the form of a perfectly executed strike that cleared the cobwebs from the top corner of the net. A final score of 2-0 in an entertaining contest. Player of the match was awarded to Molly Odgers, who Baigent said ‘really stood up and was adamant in matching play for play with the opposing side’.
Opposition coach Moseley praised the Victory players on their efforts and their noticeable improvement over the course of the season thus far. Having sat out round 15 due to a bye, the ladies in black and white will be back in action in round 16 as they host the in form Nambucca Strikers at Connell Park this Saturday afternoon.
Eagles ‘1’ met Raiders ‘1’ in a top of the table clash that carried the potential to essentially decide the outcome of the Premiership despite the competition still having three rounds remaining afterwards. At their Ayrshire Park home ground, the Eagles started the game off in the best possible fashion as deadly attacker Kylie McDonald grabbed an early double, the second of which was an impressive strike, both powerful and accurate from around twelve yards.
Some time then went by without either goal being breached, as the two competition heavyweights tussled for possession. Eventually, it was Keira Plumbe who found the next breakthrough, increasing the Eagles’ lead to 3-0 with a quality strike, pivoting towards goal and shooting in a single fluid movement directly into the top of the net and leaving the Urunga custodian standing. Before the half was over, McDonald was able to capitalise on some scrappy goalmouth play to make it four and seal her hat trick.
The second stanza was a much more even affair. The Eagles’ only goal came from an accurate Siobhan Deam finish after a good passing move down the right flank. The Raiders looked likely to close the gap, hitting the crossbar twice and scoring through the impressive Jackie Kambere, who gave a great account of herself throughout the afternoon. The Eagles were lacking accuracy in front of goal and a host of chances went begging late on as both sides tired in the unseasonal heat.
Eagles manager John Walker said the game was mostly a fast paced affair ‘as one would expect from these two sides, but Boambee seemed always to have the edge in defence and attack as their players backed up one another in an incisive display of outstanding teamwork’. With that result, they took a great leap towards sealing the Premiership and would now have to capitulate to quite a degree in order to hand the regular season title to their southern opponents.
Round 15 saw Eagles ‘1’ host the Dingoes and it took them just 10 minutes to open their account through Plumbe, who scored from 12 yards after they were awarded a penalty. Plumbe and McDonald were combining well throughout the opening stanza and McDonald profited handsomely with a brace from Plumbe’s accurate passing across goal. Rebekah Oberleuter contributed a goal of her own in the 20th minute and by half time the Eagles were up 4-0.
The second half started off in much the same fashion, a 57th minute penalty being converted by Plumbe to push the margin out to five. There were still more goals in the offing from the Eagles, with McDonald latching on to an excellent cross from Sheridan Watkins to power a magnificent header into the back of the net, and Plumbe scoring another from distance just under the bar and out of the keeper’s reach. Hat tricks for both of the Eagles’ star performers drove the nail into the coffin for the hosts with the final scoreline reading 7-0.
Walker said that Orara captain-coach Helen Moseley was tireless in both defence and attack for her side, but unfortunately she was more often than not required at the back due to the heavy pressure of the Eagles attack and thus was unable to influence the result in a goalscoring sense. Walker credited the Dingoes for showing ‘plenty of spirit right to the end’ and observed that ‘both sides were relieved at the final whistle as the temperature rose to uncomfortable levels’.
Perhaps most notable about the victory was the fact that the Eagles had just nine players throughout the encounter and were forced into several goalkeeper changes in order to give the outfield players some degree of relief. Orara’s custodian pulled off many saves but was forced off midway through the second half with a badly bruised right hand after colliding heavily with the post during one particularly valiant dive. They will host Wildcats ‘1’ in a grand final rematch in round 16 in what should be a tight game.
Eagles ‘2’ had a successful outing in round 14 as the Fiona Clancy-led outfit claimed a 2-0 home win over Urunga Raiders ‘2’ to keep their own finals hopes alive. They then travelled to High Street in round 15 to take on the powerful Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’, helmed by Kim Batty, and fought out a gallant 1-1 draw to leave themselves four points outside the top four with just two rounds remaining. They will host Wildcats ‘2’ in round 16 knowing that a win is absolutely essential if they are to give themselves a shot at finals football.
Coffs City United Lionesses
A disappointing couple of weeks for the Lionesses saw them fall to two straight defeats – firstly a 4-1 reverse at High Street against Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’ and then a 6-0 thumping to Urunga Raiders ‘1’ at the Cabbage Patch. Those results have left them very precariously placed and having occupied fourth spot on the ladder not so many weeks ago, their chances of finals now appear purely mathematical.
They will look to right the ship and get their campaign back on track in round 16 as they host Corindi Breakers in what could well prove an almighty banana skin in the wake of the Breakers’ impressive recent form. The girls in red and black will certainly need to have their wits about them to claim victory with their top four hopes now on life support.
Round 14 saw the Breakers sit out due to the bye, but they carried the impressive form that delivered them their first victory of the campaign over the Scorpions in round 13 to hammer out a superb 1-1 draw with Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’ at home. Such a result would have seemed almost unthinkable earlier in the season and full credit must go to the Breakers for their inspiring improvement over the course of 2018.
That result knocked Wildcats ‘2’ out of the top four, a fact that underscores the credibility of this Breakers side – this was no weak opposition they were facing, this was a legitimate finals contender and they proved they could go toe to toe over 90 minutes. It will be another enormous result for their collective confidence ahead of a round 16 trip to Forsyth Park to take on the Lionesses, whose own shaky form might well provide an opportunity for the Breakers to spring another almighty surprise.
The Stingers hosted Wildcats ‘1’ at Bellevue Drive in round 14, and manager Deb Turner was well aware her girls had a sizeable challenge ahead of them. With many of the Stingers’ most experienced players absent for the fixture, their young charges had steeled themselves to give it their best shot against a side of vastly higher pedigree who were coming third on the ladder.
First choice goalkeeper Kate Single finally returned to action and this was a substantial boost to the Stingers’ depleted lineup. Laura Peisley started the match off well with some relentless defence but the sheer weight of attacks from the Wildcats proved too much, and they grabbed two early goals. Tazma Clifford showed great skill to assist Jaime Searle, who scored her first of the season to halve the deficit.
But the remainder of the half was one way traffic, with Woolgoolga conjuring another three goals to go to the break 5-1 to the good. A half time discussion led by coach Pete Turner revolved around calling upon the ‘never give up attitude’ that has been a hallmark of this Stingers side for some time. Indeed, the hometown girls were able to fight back and deliver a strong second half performance, limiting the Wildcats to just two further goals to leave the final score at 7-1, with some excellent defence on display. Player of the match went to Peisley in the heart of the backline.
The following week saw the Macksville girls host Nambucca in their fifth consecutive home game. Local derbies are often tense contests but the visiting Strikers broke the game open early on and were three up at the break. The ladies in red upped their intensity level after the third and strung together some solid passages of passing, but were unable to capitalise in front of goal despite creating a few decent opportunities.
Both teams were very evenly matched in the second half, with virtually nothing in it. The Stingers gave it their best shot but could not find a way back into the contest, as the Strikers defended resolutely to preserve their clean sheet. At full time the score was 3-0 to the visitors, but Stingers manager Turner said it was a fun game for both teams. Peisley secured her second consecutive player of the match award, showing excellent defence and team leadership. The Stingers were pencilled in to take on Orara in round 16 but that fixture has since been rescheduled.
The Strikers kept their quite incredible late season charge going with two strong wins, over Sawtell Scorpions and Macksville Stingers respectively, keeping clean sheets in both. A 6-0 home win over Rachael Oberleuter’s Scorpions saw Anna Champion open the scoring before Kyiesha Cohen doubled the advantage off a Zara Pastega corner. Sam Walsh and Brea Welsh were each key performers in midfield, and Cohen was combining with Champion up front to devastating effect.
Champion had her brace midway through the opening stanza before Keily Chase came ever so close to scoring her first of the campaign following some great teamwork in the lead up. She collected the ball directly in front of goal but could only manage to curl a side footer just wide of the post. With the Strikers backline looking as assured as ever, Jessica White and Luwarna Cohen each galloped up field on a few occasions to contribute in the centre of the park.
Just before the interval, Pastega, who had been full of energy throughout the half, etched her name on to the scoresheet to make it 4-0. Coach Clay Urquhart made some positional shifts at half time, bringing Carly Smith – who had yet to break a sweat between the sticks – up field in place of Welsh, who would go on to produce some great saves of her own. Charlotte Williams was brought on up front and the change paid dividends as she nabbed a brace.
Cohen’s work in central midfield was integral and Cheree Chapman’s advancement into the mids from sweeper came very close to delivering a goal. With 20 minutes remaining, Champion and Melissa Urquhart were given a rest and the score ultimately remained the same at 6-0. The result extended the Strikers’ winning streak to three ahead of a local derby against Macksville.
Round 15’s trip to Bellevue Drive yielded similar riches, as the Strikers claimed a 3-0 victory off the back of an inspired first half display. With all of their goals coming prior to oranges, they had to dig in for the second half as the hosts looked to stem the flow and create some chances of their own. The Strikers were stoic in preserving their clean sheet though, and following the shock 1-1 draw between Wildcats ‘2’ and Corindi, they now occupy a top four position right at the business end of the season. They will visit Connell Park to take on the Bellingen Victory in round 16, with a chance to elevate themselves further into the box seat for finals football.
Orara Valley Dingoes
A couple of tough games for the Dingoes saw them split their results with a win in round 14 and a loss in round 15. A home game against Bellingen Victory saw them edge out a close tussle, scoring once after just 5 minutes and then again after 88 minutes, nicely bookending the game for an important 2-0 result.
Round 15 was a more difficult proposition as they travelled to Ayrshire Park to face the ladder leading Boambee Eagles. Despite the Eagles playing the entirety of the match with just nine on the park, their experience and quality proved a bridge too far for the Dingoes, who ultimately went down 7-0, conceding two penalties along the way.
Both games saw stellar performances from influential captain-coach Helen Moseley, whose presence is always immense for the girls from Orara. The Dingoes were originally set to take on Macksville Stingers in round 16 but this fixture has since been rescheduled to a later date. They will finish off their season by hosting Boambee Eagles ‘2’ at Dairyville.
The Scorpions had it tough as they made the trip to Coronation Park to do battle with a Nambucca Strikers side in imposing form. 4-0 down at half time, Rachael Oberleuter’s side faced the prospect of a heavy defeat as their players were run ragged in the natural amphitheatre of the ‘Corosseum’, but they aimed up in a major way in the second stanza and conceded just two further goals, including a stretch of around 25 minutes to close the game were they were not breached.
Returning home to Toormina Oval in round 15, the girls in green and white had a far happier outing as they claimed an important 2-0 victory over Urunga Raiders ‘2’ that saw them elevate themselves off the bottom of the ladder, leapfrogging the in form Corindi Breakers. They will have their hands full in round 16, however, as they travel to Morgo Street to face the second placed Urunga Raiders ‘1’ before a bye in the final round of the season.
Raiders ‘1’ faced Boambee Eagles ‘1’ and had the chance to close the gap atop the table to mere goal difference at the business end of the season. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out that way as they went down 5-1 at Ayrshire Park. The result essentially consigns them to the reality of kissing the Premiership goodbye, as the Eagles would need to lose every remaining game and the Raiders win all of theirs if they were to capture top spot due to the wide net goal difference between the two sides.
Trevor Martin’s side certainly shook off the dust in round 15, however, accounting comfortably for Coffs City United Lionesses at home in a strong 6-0 victory. The girls in maroon looked back to their best, which is a great sign ahead of finals. They will host Sawtell Scorpions this weekend and will no doubt be looking to keep their momentum going for the games that really matter.
Coming off the bye in round 13 and having produced a narrow win over the Breakers the previous week, Raiders ‘2’ appeared to have a degree of ring rust in rounds 14 and 15, as they went down 2-0 on both occasions in away trips to Ayrshire Park and Toormina Oval against Boambee Eagles ‘2’ and Sawtell Scorpions respectively.
The narrow margins of each of those defeats suggests the second string Raiders are certainly not being disgraced by any stretch, but a bye in round 16 will only serve to further disrupt their momentum ahead of a final day showdown with Wildcats ‘2’, in what has been a spluttering campaign attempting to negotiate the rigours and tribulations of the combined competition.
Wildcats ‘1’ produced a strong display in round 14, as they travelled to Bellevue Drive to take on Macksville Stingers. Kim Batty’s side came away with a 7-1 victory, though their opponents did well to limit the girls in blue to just two goals after half time. Round 15 was a tougher assignment, as the visiting Boambee Eagles ‘2’ limited their output effectively enough to claim a 1-1 draw at High Street.
The solitary point means the top Wildcats side now lie just two points above the fast finishing Nambucca Strikers, and face the very real risk of losing third spot on the ladder as they face two incredibly difficult tasks in the final two rounds in the form of away trips to Ayrshire Park and the Cabbage Patch to take on Eagles ‘1’ and Raiders ‘1’ respectively. Indeed, they could still slip out of finals entirely – potentially even to their intra-club compatriots – and may find themselves hoping for other permutations to fall their way should a grand final repeat eventuate this September.
A powerful showing in round 14 saw Wildcats ‘2’ claim a crucial 4-1 victory over a fellow finals aspirant in Coffs City United Lionesses, but a slip up in round 15 against Corindi Breakers, where they were held to a 1-1 draw at Pacific Street, meant their top four hopes still hang in the balance. The form of the Nambucca Strikers has seen them leapfrog Wildcats ‘2’ into the four and with just two rounds of football remaining, both fixtures will be crucial for the ladies in blue.
They will travel to Ayrshire Park in round 16 to take on Eagles ‘2’, who lie just one position behind them on the ladder, before making the journey to Morgo Street on the final day to face Raiders ‘2’. In a strange quirk of the combined competition, wins in both those fixtures could well have the potential to dislodge their own ‘teammates’, Wildcats ‘1’, from a 2018 semi-final appearance – a truly bizarre situation and one that all involved would be hoping to avoid, though the Strikers’ form would dictate there will probably only be room for one Woopi team in the four come season’s end.