Another weekend, another shuffle at the top in the WNPL, Gungahlin United and Belconnen United sit first and second on the table after convincing successes in round 17. The Blue Devils, a point behind the Gunners but with two games in hand, are zeroing in on the 10th premiership of their history.
A clash of titans kicked off the weekend at McKellar, and it ended with Belconnen United earning a precious success against Canberra Croatia (2-0). With six games left to play, the Blue Devils will only play one team for the top 4, the postponed encounter with Canberra Olympic.
Injuries and absences of both sides meant the starting 11s were a bit different for the two rivals on Saturday. The Blue Devils seemed the least bothered of the two, even if they ended up also losing Keira Bobbin early on, the forward feeling a niggle on her hamstring.
The pacey winger did leave her mark on the game, getting an assist a quarter of an hour in. From her right side, she perfectly found Hattie Cram at the far post. The in-form youngster scored her second goal in as many weeks with a sublime left-footed half volley out of reach of Liberty A-League goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln.
Even a goal up, Belconnen United stuck to the plan they were executing perfectly since kick-off: high press, use of the width and alternating patient build-up and balls behind the defence. Cram was involved again twenty minutes later for the second goal. Forgotten on her right wing, she was served by set piece master Isabella Hindmarsh in a dangerous position.
Her cross was half-cleared by Zoe Sobzcak, only for Talia Backhouse to surgically volley it back in the bottom left of the goal and give her troops an advantage they would keep until the final whistle. Canberra Croatia worked hard to come back in the game in the second half, but another strong defensive performance from the Blue Devils meant they would get second consecutive clean sheet against a contender.
Three goals within 17 minutes offered Gungahlin United an important success against ANU WFC on Sunday afternoon. By avoiding the trap that is the solid University team, the Gunners now sit at the top of the table for the first time this season.
The round of observation lasted 15 minutes between the two teams, and if the ANU pushed early on, the first threat came from Sharon Chao and her Gunners, with the forward inches away from scoring a backheel. Gungahlin eventually opened the score at the 17th minute, courtesy of Kayla Wright.
The young winger anticipated a pass between two University defender and from the corner of the box, glanced the ball past Claire Joseph despite a strong tackle from Ailish McDonagh. The visitors rode the momentum and minutes later, seeing the backheel did not work, Chao used her kidney to score from up close after a cross from Ella Brown.
Rob Illingworth players picked themselves up and tried to come back in the game, with Roxy Swart’s inspired half volley inches off target, and a free dangerous set piece. The Gunners kept their cool and waited for the right time to strike again.
A cross from Wright hit the crossbar, Joseph had to make a couple of saves, and just past the half hour mark, Gungahlin finally found their third goal. Wright, again, launched Ginger Oliver perfectly in space. Joseph came to meet the forward, but Oliver was on the ball before the keeper, and lobbed her from outside the box to seal the fate of the game.
A seven-goal thriller ended the weekend at Hawker Football Centre and saw Canberra United Academy resisting a comeback from the West Canberra Wanderers (4-3). Matthew Moore will be happy to see his troops keeping all three points, after a three-goal lead in the opening 33 minutes was under threat for the whole second half. Tamara Cochrane put her team on the right path in the 19th minute.
Following a great through ball from Alex Nealand, the striker’s pace was enough to get rid of a defender and finish from the edge of the box with a precise effort in the bottom left corner. Cochrane was found again on her right wing seven minutes later, but chose the collective option this time, serving Sofia Christopherson in the six-yard box.
The Liberty A-League striker scored her second goal of the season despite the return of Ellen Brown. Her third followed minutes later, when she was found by Holly Murray in the box and finished from up close.
The Wanderers did not give up. Lauren Hall displayed once again the extent of her talent, and the accuracy of her right foot, with a goal to remember each side of the break. A corner kick at the 38th minute surprised everyone and made its way into the back the net to reduce the Academy’s advantage before half time.
The midfielder’s second goal before the hour mark was even better, a lob from 35 meters after she saw Georgia Ritchie off her line. With only one goal over their opponents, the Academy relied on their dynamic duo upfront to get some air.
Ten minutes after conceding the second goal, a free-kick by Murray hit the crossbar, and the Academy players were quickest to the rebound. Christopherson pounced, and seeing Sam Briggs in her way, decided to serve Cochrane on a platter, for her second goal of the day.
The Wanderers still had something in them and scored another long-distance goal nine minutes before the clock showed 90, thanks to their captain Sarah Whitfield, but the Academy eventually took the three points home, after one of the games of the season for the neutrals.
Saturday 5 August
Belconnen United 2 (Cram 16’, Backhouse 37’) Canberra Croatia 0
Sunday 6 August
Canberra Olympic v Tuggeranong United – match rescheduled to 31 August 2023
ANU WFC 0 Gungahlin United 3 (Wright 17’, Chao 21’, Oliver 34’)
Canberra United Academy 4 (Cochrane 19’, 68’, Christopherson 26’, 33’) West Canberra Wanderers 3 (Hall 38’, 58’, Whitfield 81’)
|5||Canberra United Academy||16||7||2||7||20||30||-10||23|
|8||West Canberra Wanderers||17||2||2||13||15||53||-38||8|
15 Brittany PALOMBI (Canberra Croatia)
11 Bessie RIETHMULLER (Belconnen United)
9Hattie CRAM (Belconnen United)
7 Talia BACKHOUSE (Belconnen United), Nicole JALOCHA (Canberra Olympic), Tatum MAZIS (Canberra Croatia), Charli MITCHELL (Canberra Croatia), Ginger OLIVER (Gungahlin United), Darby WHITELEY (Gungahlin United)
5 Isabella BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Keira BOBBIN (Belconnen United), Sharon CHAO (Gungahlin United), Olivia GURNEY (Canberra Olympic), Michaela THORNTON (Canberra Olympic), Madelyn WHITTALL (Canberra Olympic), Own GOALS
4 Jade BROWN (Gungahlin United), Maddison CACHIA (Canberra Olympic), Tamara COCHRANE (Canberra United Academy), Roxie SWART (ANU WFC)
3 Tia BURRIDGE (Canberra Olympic), Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON (Canberra United Academy),Alyssa DI-CAMPLI (Canberra United Academy), Rhiannon FENSOM (Canberra Croatia), Alyse JENSEN (West Canberra Wanderers), Erika PENNYFIELD (Gungahlin United), Nikita PERRY (West Canberra Wanderers/Canberra Croatia), Pearl TEIN (Belconnen United), Samantha WOOD (Tuggeranong United)
2 Elke AITOLU (Canberra Olympic), Ella-Rose BROWN (Gungahlin United), Cara CERUTI (West Canberra Wanderers), Rachael CORBETT (Gungahlin United), Lauren HALL (West Canberra Wanderers), Michelle HEYMAN (Gungahlin United), Sheridan MCELLIGOTT (ANU WFC), Riley MCQUEENIE (Canberra United Academy), Alexandra NEALAND (Canberra United Academy), Rainey NILES (Tuggeranong United), Marija RATHOUSKI (Belconnen United), Madeleine STEINACKER (Belconnen United), Zoe TERRY (Tuggeranong United), Kate WALKER (West Canberra Wanderers), Sarah WHITFIELD (West Canberra Wanderers), Kayla WRIGHT (Gungahlin United), Reilly YUEN (Belconnen United)
1 Tehya ASPLAND (Canberra Olympic), Latisha BABIC (Canberra United Academy), Sienna BIRNIE (Canberra Croatia), Amy BONGIORNO (Canberra Croatia), Jaya BOWMAN (Canberra United Academy), Sofia CHAVERRA (ANU WFC), Alexandra COOK (Canberra Olympic), Natalie DE MARCO (Gungahlin United), Emma DOUGLAS-OLIVEIRA (ANU WFC), Edith FORDYCE-CROKER (ANU WFC), Charli GREGSON (Tuggeranong United), Isabella HINDMARSH (Belconnen United), Isabella HOPKINS (ANU WFC), Abby HURMAN (Tuggeranong United), Ashlyn LEWIS (Tuggeranong United), Sarah MATTHEWS (Tuggeranong United), Ailish MCDONAGH (ANU WFC), Peri NASH (Canberra United Academy), Maya OSMOND (Canberra United Academy), Madeleine PERCEVAL (Gungahlin United), Katrina PERIC (Canberra Olympic), Alina ROBERTS (Belconnen United), Vanessa RYAN (Canberra Olympic), Elisha WILD (Canberra United Academy), Juliet WILLIAMS (ANU WFC), Zoe WILLIAMS (Tuggeranong United), Kayla WRIGHT (Gungahlin United), Jasmine ZABEL (Canberra Olympic)