Round 18 sees time for the highly anticipated duel between the two best teams of the league as the WNPL’s version of the clash of titans closes the fixture list as Canberra Croatia and Canberra Olympic meet for the fourth time this season.
Olympic have the advantage so far this campaign, with the win in the Federation Cup. After conceding a last minute draw at Deakin in Round 4, they were the one scoring the equaliser in Round 11. The two encounters were cagey and showcased real battles everywhere on the pitch.
Both teams have won all their games since, and both have scored at least twice every weekend since that last draw. The duel at Deakin will be the opportunity for the hosts to almost secure a third straight premiership if they don’t lose, but also a way for whoever takes the three points to add to the psychological battle.
And that might be important ahead of what could be a fifth encounter in 2022, the Grand Final. Deakin Stadium at 2.30pm on Sunday will be the place to be.
Two games are being played on Saturday at 3pm, the first of which sees Belconnen United host Canberra United Academy at McKellar Park. After losing to Olympic last week, the Blue Devils said goodbye to a potential top two finish.
Their priority now is to secure the third spot, and to keep the seven-point cushion they have over West Canberra. Talia Backhouse will have another chance to prove how much she enjoys playing against the Academy on Saturday.
Belconnen’s captain single-handedly secured both her team’s victory over the players in green this season (2-1, 2-0), thanks to two quick braces, 41st and 47th minute in Round 4, and 58th and 61st minute in Round 11. Can she do it faster the third time?
Unable to beat any of the top four teams this season, the Academy players still showed their ability to challenge the competition’s finest in the past few weeks. The close defeat against Canberra Croatia, West Canberra and Gungahlin were hard fought battles that highlighted the spirit of the youngsters coached by Sarah West.
The Blue Devils were the last team able to secure a clean sheet against Jaya Bowman and her teammates, who will want to keep their scoring streak alive at McKellar.
Andrew Woodman has been on the Gungahlin United bench for six rounds, and his team has scored 15 goals, one more than in their first 11 games and they’’ be out to add to that when they meet Wagga City Wanderers at Gungahlin Enclosed.
The trip to the Riverina in Round 11 was Woodman’s first game at the helm (4-2 win), and this weekend’s game will be as crucial: three points would keep the pressure on the other Wanderers on the table. Michelle Heyman and her troops have scored in the first 20 minutes of their last two encounters. A similar start on Saturday would be the best way to ensure success.
The Riverina’s Wanderers will try to end a dreadful streak at Gungahlin Enclosed this weekend: Robert Tuksar’s players have not found the back of the net in over 400 minutes. Megan Castle scored each time her team faced the Gunners this season, so it seems like the appropriate time for the Wagga City forward to get back to business.
At the other end of the pitch, the worst defence in the league will have their hands full with Gungahlin’s firepower, and it will take a special performance from Ebony Walker and her back line to get a second clean sheet in 2022.
The first game on Sunday will take place at Melrose Synthetic between West Canberra Wanderers and Tuggeranong United. Rey Castro and his troops will face the top three teams in the last three games of the season, therefore a win this Sunday, as well as against Wagga in their postponed game, is imperative to secure the fourth spot they fought so hard for in 2022.
Tara Cannon has enjoyed playing Tuggeranong this season, with three goals in two games. She also scored a brace against the Academy last time around, to add to her stellar season with the Wanderers. A strong performance from the midfielder and her partners in crime Ginger Oliver and Hattie Cram will be needed on Sunday.
Paulo Romero’s team came back from 0-2 down to grab a point last time they faced West Canberra, after losing the first encounter of the season 3-0. They have seen their last two games postponed because of the rain and must be itching to get back on the grass, for what will be a busy end to the season.
The Tuggies were unable to score in their last two games, against the Academy and Belconnen, so the priority will be to find the back of the net on Sunday, and to do what it takes to get a win that would bring them closer to sixth place CUA.
Saturday 20 August
Belconnen United v Canberra United Academy (McKellar Park, 15:00)
Gungahlin United v Wagga City Wanderers (Gungahlin Enclosed, 15:00)
Sunday 21 August
West Canberra Wanderers v Tuggeranong United (Melrose Synthetic, 12:45)
Canberra Croatia v Canberra Olympic (Deakin Stadium 14:30)
|4||West Canberra Wanderers||16||7||3||6||-13||24|
|6||Canberra United Academy||17||4||2||11||-17||14|
|8||Wagga City Wanderers||16||1||1||14||-84||4|
Words: Jeremy Magan