Six rounds are all that is left in the WNPL, and we are in for a fascinating race for the fourth spot, a position that brings with it a place in the semi-finals.
Round 16 kicks off at McKellar Park on Saturday afternoon, with a duel between the two teams of the North, Belconnen United and Gungahlin United. The maths is simple for the Blue Devils, a win would officially mean a spot in the finals secured.
Scott Conlon and his players could feel safe even without such a result, but ahead of a tough series of matches (Gungahlin, Canberra Olympic, Canberra United Academy, Canberra Croatia), getting all three points would help facing the top two in fully confident mood.
The Gunners finally beat a top team last week, brushing off West Canberra Wanderers 5-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Michelle Heyman. They looked like what we have expected from them all season, a team working together on both half of the field, and Andrew Woodman undoubtedly will want to see more of the same at McKellar.
Two teams strong everywhere on the pitch, with a great bench depth, makes this clash on Saturday must-see. A Gunners win would keep their dream of finals alive.
Three games will be played on Sunday, starting with a crucial match-up at Melrose Synthetic. The West Canberra Wanderers and Canberra Academy United are the two other teams eyeing off the fourth spot.
For the Wanderers, it is the spot they are fighting to keep. Ending their winning drought on Sunday would be the perfect coup, given the Academy is only trailing them by seven points. The returns of Rhianna Goldstein and Briana Maguire brings much-needed experience that could prove just the push needed for West Canberra to keep their much-coveted spot on the table.
The Academy were also on a slippery slope before their hard-fought win against Tuggeranong last week. They were close to an upset on the weekend, losing to Canberra Croatia by only one goal, despite a team decimated by injuries and absences.
The youngsters are putting the work in and might reap their reward at Melrose this weekend. Getting the three points away from home would place them only four points behind their opponents, leaving their chance to qualify for the finals fully open.
The two leaders on the table face the two bottom teams at home to round up the weekend. Canberra Olympic hosts Tuggeranong United while Canberra Croatia faces the Wagga City Wanderers.
Olympic’s main target is to still be in reach of the league leaders when they meet on August 21st. At O’Connor Enclosed, they will face a solid defensive unit in Tuggeranong, but Nicole Begg’s offensive armada seems well armed to see off their opponents. Nicole Jalocha and her teammates have scored four goals or more in their last three outing, so the Tuggies are warned.
Every week, Paulo Romero’s troops seem closer and closer from that upset against a top three that would reward the hard work the team from South Canberra has put on all year.
Only losing 3-0 to Belconnen United last weekend was a good performance, given the previous results between both squads. Their two encounters with Olympic ended up in 6-0 defeats this season, a result they will work to improve this week.
Canberra Croatia is still cruising at the top of the table, four points clear of Olympic. Zoran Glavinic’s players are showing the same efficiency in front of goals and defensive solidity week in week out and will take no prisoner on Sunday when the Wagga City Wanderers travel from the Riverina to face them.
Brittany Palombi will once again be a big threat for the Wanderers. The left footed forward decided it was as good a time as any to go and chase her fourth Golden Boot title, scoring five times in the last three games.
Wagga City still sit at the bottom of the table with only four points, but positives emerge every week, and the team is improving with each performance. A result in Deakin would not be an expectation for the players for the Riverina but given they have conceded 22 goals in the first two games against the reigning champions, they will want to limit the damage on Sunday.
After that encouraging win against the Academy in round 12, the Wanderers have failed to find the back of the net in three games. Ending this 310-minute goal drought at Deakin would be a real satisfaction.
Saturday 6 August
Belconnen United v Gungahlin United (McKellar Park, 15:00)
Sunday 7 August
West Canberra Wanderers v Canberra United Academy (Melrose Synthetic, 12:45)
Canberra Olympic v Tuggeranong United (O’Connor Enclosed, 14:30)
Canberra Croatia v Wagga City Wanderers (Deakin Stadium, 14:30)
|4||West Canberra Wanderers||15||6||3||6||-15||21|
|6||Canberra United Academy||15||4||2||9||-14||14|
|8||Wagga City Wanderers||15||1||1||13||-79||4|
Words: Jeremy Magan