By Tim Klingbiel
The Victory travelled to Forsyth Park to take on the Lionesses in what was expected to be a close contest. The girls were a trifle unlucky as an early Lionesses handball in the box went unpunished, but both sides were trading shots on goal and each keeper was called into action. It was the home side who slotted first from a one on one, but this proved the catalyst for some tighter marking from the Bello ladies.
With the game starting to resemble a WNBA playoff as a surfeit of handling incidents were ignored by the officials, Bellingen began to produce some excellent intercepts and challenges courtesy of Jordy Guest and Lilli Mosco-Klipin. Just as they seemed to be building up a head of steam, Kim Barker’s side was forced to deal with the loss of Lauren Rigney as she was assisted from the field having taken a heavy knock to the jaw from the ball.
This did not seem to deter the Victory though, and they continued to press on, a brilliant cross from Cath Hawkshaw in the 25th minute finding the energetic Molly Odgers at the back stick, having steamed in from the left wing in record time. Odgers made no mistake and delivered the equaliser for the girls in black and white. The Victory’s Deb Baigent said that her teammates continued to string together some excellent combinations in the latter stages of the half and headed into the interval riding a wave of momentum.
A refreshed Lionesses outfit came back strongly after the break though, and it wasn’t long before they had retaken the lead after cleverly engineering a two on one situation against Bellingen’s keeper. Again the Victory responded positively to the speed bump though, Baigent noting that a greater sense of urgency was being displayed all round. A series of attacking raids culminated in a great strike by midfielder Sam Barker – driven towards the top corner with both power and precision, only a top drawer save from the Lionesses custodian preserved the home side’s lead.
The Victory were then forced to deal with another setback as key performer Sophie Russell was carted off with a knee injury. Despite the competitiveness and vigour with which they continued to approach the contest, this proved a bridge too far for the Bellingen girls, who conceded again in the 70th minute. They were unable to bridge the gap and the score remained at 3-1.
Barker’s girls return to Connell Park this weekend to take on Sawtell Scorpions in what should be another entertaining fixture decided by fine margins. They will do their very best to finally get some points on the board for 2018 after what has been a tough start to life in the strong combined division. Full credit must go to them for the way they play the game though, and it is great to see the heart and spirit they display each week. They continue to improve with experience and that elusive first win is surely not too far away now.
The coaching staff at Ayrshire Park were rather displeased with having to pit the wits of their two teams against one another, but despite the disgruntlement at the competition restructure that flowed through the dugouts, a quality game ultimately played out on the afternoon. After a woeful display of footballing ineptitude by the 3rd division Bombers, several beers and Cutty’s pies deep and looking about as interested in being there as a local councillor in declining a pay rise, provided a decidedly underwhelming curtain raiser, quality was certainly welcomed enthusiastically by the home crowd who had been forced through two hours of footballing agriculture.
Given the circumstances, Team 1 had only 10 available players – even after Team 2 had already lent them one of their own – while Team 2 had ’11.5’ – coach Fiona Clancy spending the second half between the sticks. The game had a slightly strange atmosphere to it, with two groups of girls who normally train as one now having to take each other on and battle for competition points. As anticipated, Team 1 started the stronger and deadly striker Kylie McDonald grabbed one, then two, then three for an early hat trick.
Jasmin Kruger’s form has been superb of late and when Team 1 won a free kick outside the box it seemed only logical for her to be assigned dead ball duties. She made no mistake and deposited the ball calmly in the net to make it 4-0. Kruger was not done yet though, and followed her free kick effort up with another great strike to make it a brace for the afternoon and push the margin out to five by half time.
Clancy must have delivered an inspirational oration in the sheds as Team 2 came back out fired up and ready to do some damage. An excellent goal to Kathleen Vail reduced the deficit and it seemed as if a little momentum swing was on the cards. The ‘2’s were pushing forward at every opportunity but Glenn Bennett’s Team 1 quickly curtailed their progress as McDonald popped up for her fourth of the day with a delicate chip over the keeper.
The remainder of the half played out without the scorers being troubled further, and the final score of 6-1 meant that things had gone fairly well according to script. Both coaches noted the difficulty of the situation and expressed their keenness to avoid a repeat this season as it was a slightly awkward affair, though Clancy observed that it was still played in high spirits nonetheless.
Clancy felt it would be somewhat disingenuous to place any emphasis on the result but will no doubt be looking ahead to this weekend’s away game against Nambucca Strikers as a chance to re-establish momentum for her side and lend further credibility to their threat as a potential finals-bound outfit. Bennett may see this Saturday’s home game against Orara Valley Dingoes as a chance to experiment somewhat as last week’s debacle against the Raiders suggests the girls from Dairyville might be doing their very best to keep the score in single figures.
Coffs City United Lionesses
It hadn’t been an easy start to the season for the Lionesses but with four points from their first three games, it was hardly all doom and gloom. Their home fixture against Bellingen Victory would offer them an opportunity to build up some more momentum and potentially even elevate them into a finals position after four rounds – no small feat in a 13 team competition with an unprecedented amount of potential banana skins to negotiate.
A tough battle played out early on with some excellent goalkeeping and a sprinkle of assistance from Lady Luck – a handball in the box that would have given the Victory an opportunity to take the lead from 12 yards was overlooked – keeping the Lionesses’ clean sheet in tact. They ensured that neither their efforts nor fortune went to waste, punishing the travelling Bellingen side with a clinical one on one finish to open the scoring.
They were made to withstand a strong Bello fightback though, and the black and white were able to equalise after 25 minutes. The remainder of the half played out in something of a stalemate as neither side were able to gain a clear ascendancy. The second half was a different story though, as a spirited Lionesses side came out as strong as they have been this season and set up some excellent attacking play. A clever move saw them outfox the Victory defence and the Lionesses midfield were the proud architects of a two on one that ultimately saw them recapture the lead.
A third goal followed in the 70th minute to extend the margin and bring a sense of comfort to the United dugout, and that would be the way things stayed as the Lionesses claimed a 3-1 victory. They now sit in the rarefied air of fourth spot on the ladder, but an away trip to High Street on Saturday to take on Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ means they will have their work well and truly cut out to stay there. It will take a truly special effort to pick up a result against one of the competition favourites but anyone who knows the Lionesses will be in no doubt that they will give it a fair dinkum shake.
The overmatched Breakers gave their best effort against traditional competition heavyweights Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘1’ at home, but as anticipated it was all too much for the girls who have only re-entered senior football this season after a lengthy absence. To their credit, they were able to force some wayward shooting out of the Wildcats on the afternoon and opposition coach Kim Batty praised them for never giving up and making her girls play right up until the final whistle.
Despite the scorelines they have been seeing each week so far, the Corindi ladies continue to improve and gain experience against top level opponents – the three teams they have played so far have several 1st Division titles between them and it’s been a genuine baptism of fire. It’s unlikely to get a great deal easier this weekend as they take on the undefeated Wildcats ‘2’ side at High Street, but Donna Smith’s plucky band of foot soldiers will be out to make Woopi’s life difficult in another local derby of sorts.
Macksville had started their season in decidedly inauspicious fashion, with two defeats that saw them concede a combined total of 10 goals and then a forfeit last week after being understaffed leaving them second from bottom on the ladder. Their third consecutive away fixture, this time against Sawtell Scorpions at Toormina Oval, would offer them a chance to finally blow out the cobwebs and hit their campaign with the defibrillator.
Stingers manager Deb Turner said the game started quite defensively, and it seemed the opening exchanges were something of a feeling out process. It was the red and white who drew first blood though, with Johanna Walsh putting them one up. Walsh then grabbed her brace and the Stingers headed into the interval with a two goal advantage, with the Scorpions on the ropes.
Turner noted that the enthusiasm of the Macksville girls did not wane in the slightest, and their determination to increase their lead was impressive. That hunger paid off as a brief lapse in the Sawtell defence saw Walsh, ruthless as ever, complete her hat trick. It wasn’t all one way traffic though, with the home side mustering one in reply to narrow the arrears to 3-1.
With some relentless defensive work from the Stingers absorbing anything further Sawtell could throw their way, Rachael Oberleuter’s girls began to tire somewhat late on and Laura Peisley etched her name on to the scoresheet to restore the three goal lead. Walsh put the icing on the cake with her fourth for the afternoon and her side’s fifth in a dominant 5-1 victory.
The Stingers are finally off the mark for the season, but rather frustratingly, they will be unable to capitalise on the momentum of Saturday afternoon’s performance as they take an enforced break with the bye. Coach Pete Turner will need to prepare the girls well for the following week’s home game against a Coffs City United Lionesses side who have been starting to hit their straps in recent weeks, and the Stingers will have to get stuck in if they are to increase their points tally and start an ascent up the ladder of once of the most challenging competitions in the history of NCF senior women’s football.
The Strikers had a week off after two straight games against the competition’s toughest sides. Despite the adverse results in those instances, the opening day win over Bellingen has still given them cause for enthusiasm, and they made the ladder leaders Boambee Eagles ‘1’ work hard for the three points in round two despite what the scoreline on the afternoon might have suggested.
This Saturday sees the Nambucca girls return home to Coronation Park to host Boambee Eagles ‘2’ under the spectacular backdrop of the vast natural amphitheatre. They will have their hands full if they’re to pick up points at the cauldron against a powerful Eagles ‘2’ side, but they are likely to provide them with a stern challenge and as season 2018 has shown so far, nothing is impossible.
Orara Valley Dingoes
The less said about the Dingoes’ performance on the weekend the better. A 21-0 shellacking at Dairyville by a merciless Urunga Raiders ‘1’ side was a somewhat unexpected – in terms of margin at least – nadir in what had been a bright start to the season up to that point with two wins and a draw from their first three games. Despite the thrashing, Helen Moseley’s girls still sit in fifth, but their goal difference has been obliterated and they’ll now need to depend on points only as they will be severely hampered in the event of a tie on the ladder.
A trip to Ayrshire Park to take on Boambee Eagles ‘1’ won’t help the headaches in the Dingoes camp, but they cannot possibly be expected to be competitive with the absolute upper echelon sides of the consolidated division. With a tally of seven points already though, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of for the girls in yellow and blue and they will pick themselves back up off the canvas and dust themselves down for another round.
The girls in green returned home beneath the shadows of the skate park and the BMX track to take on a fired up Macksville side without a point thus far in 2018 but hungry to prove that their 2nd Division triumph in 2017 was no flash in the pan. Coach Rachael Oberleuter would have to make do without her side’s senior defender in Anna Guest, who sustained an injury in the previous week’s game against Coffs City United Lionesses, but her ever improving squad are always ready to show up and give the best possible account of themselves no matter the circumstances.
A positive start for the Scorpions saw a philosophy of containment playing out to decent effect. Oberleuter said that the balance of play was quite even, but unfortunately, the class of the Stingers attack had them two up at the break and left the Toormina based outfit with an intimidating mountain to climb. The Sawtell coach praised the Macksville girls for their accomplished second-half performance as they ran away with the contest and claimed a 5-1 win.
This Saturday sees the young Scorpions heading south to Connell Park to take on Bellingen Victory in what shapes as an evenly matched contest, the two sides separated by only one point and a net goal difference of 2. They will no doubt see this game as a chance for redemption and one of their better opportunities to pick up a result in 2018, though it won’t be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination and concentration and composure will be key.
After a couple of adverse results against their Boambee counterparts last week, Raiders ‘1’ and ‘2’ were keen to find their way back into the winners’ circle, with coach Trevor Martin harbouring lofty ambitions for the girls from the Cabbage Patch this season. Team 1 turned the screws in a systematic destruction of Orara Valley Dingoes, rifling home an eye-watering 21 goals en route to one of the more extirpative victories ever seen in the women’s competition. In truth, it was a rather sad by-product of the consolidated Women’s Division in 2018 and unfortunately, such examples of footballing disparity will be unavoidable in a competition with the top three or four 1st Division sides meeting teams who originally nominated for 2nd Division South.
Raiders ‘2’ had a far more competitive encounter – against the unbeaten Woolgoolga Wildcats ‘2’ – though, and the Cabbage Patch played host to a bruising affair that saw several combatants sidelined with injury over the course of the afternoon. Despite the physicality taking place, there was also some excellent football on display and both sides had chances to take the lead. It was Wildcats ‘2’ who opened the scoring, but the Raiders fought back and equalised having taken advantage of a loose ball to unleash a deft lob and tie things up at 1-1. The game finished that way and both teams would more than likely consider it a fair result given the balance of play.
This weekend sees the two Raiders sides play each other at the Patch in a slightly strange situation that has only arisen as one of the quirks of the draw in the competition restructure. The home faithful will find it tough to play favourites but these fixtures are always competitive as the ostensible ‘second string’ outfit look to prove themselves against their top grade counterparts. With quality players such as Ash Mackie, Jackie Kambere, Hannah Smith and Sarah Vidler turning out for the Raiders, this matchup won’t be short on quality and is well worth a quick trip down the highway.
Wildcats ‘1’ went to Pacific Avenue with coach Kim Batty focused on organising structure and positions and seeing the solid work her girls had put in at training pay dividends on the park. Batty was impressed at her girls’ ability to regather and get back to basic football, but lamented several missed opportunities and noted that this is an area of the Wildcats’ game that still requires a lot of refining.
Wayward shooting aside, the Wildcats ‘1’s were able to put 11 past the Breakers without reply, and Batty said it was great for her girls just to be able to have a run and was full of praise for the Corindi girls’ determination, commitment and willingness to get stuck in and give it a crack right until the final whistle.
Wildcats ‘2’ were involved in a much more gruelling and close match as they travelled to the Cabbage Patch assigned with the task of stopping a determined Raiders ‘2’ side. What played out was an enthralling battle pairing quality football with uncompromising tackling and it was a genuine barnburner at Morgo Street.
Batty praised both teams’ passing and movement off the ball, and it was these very traits that the Wildcats were able to employ to devastating effect down the left flank, finding their attacker unmarked in front of goal. A well placed strike eluded the Raiders keeper and gave Woopi the lead. Ultimately though, the Raiders were able to equalise and secure a 1-1 draw. Batty says that a few areas noted during the game will be worked on at training throughout the week to bring Wildcats ‘2’ back to winning ways.
The Wildcats – who now occupy positions two and three on the table – are looking forward to this weekend’s High Street doubleheader as Team 2 take on the Breakers and Team 1 face the Lionesses with the pink sock fundraiser for the Coffs Cancer Clinic ensuring it will be a fun day out for the family full of raffles and prizes to be won. Both teams will have designs on picking up three points each and the claws look to be sharpened and ready for an attack.