So much football this weekend. The European Champions League has me waking up in the middle of the night. However, nothing beats local. So here’s some things from round 6.
In typical fashion, I forget to compensate for the time needed to fuel my car up, so I’m 5 minutes late to Valley Road. The Northern Women’s Championship match had Devonport Strikers host Burnie United.
A ray of optimism saw United score early. With the keeper off her line, a counter through the centre of the park finished with the Burnie forward sending a chipped goal into the net. Stoked celebrations from an injury hit side wound up being painfully short lived.
Ten minutes later the tide turned. The high line that had caused the Strikers headaches early was finally unpicked. A clunky goal, sparked from a ball in behind the defence, drew the match level. With barely a moment to breathe the home side went into the lead. A stunning free kick hit cobweb territory with a shot that flew across the face of goal.
How to play the defensive line was the struggle in the end for Burnie. Too high and a foot race ensued. Too deep and the Strikers were provided with too much space to think, with their third goal of that vintage. A thundering shot out of nowhere through traffic into the bottom corner. The movement of Devonports midfield was too much for United to shut down.
The end result was 12-1. I headed off to Ulverstone around the 7-1 stage with 30 minutes on the clock. The Strikers were ruthless. Burnie were left to scramble, feeling the pinch of injuries and an on-song opponent.
At kick off, I looked up and saw in the distance a brewing grey wall had surrounded the Ulverstone Showground. Wishful thinking soon gave way to “protect your brand new laptop at all costs”, and shortly after I sat there, drenched. If you ever want everyone else in the grandstand to disappear quickly, have the heavens open and pelt down.
By now I should be well prepared for the Tassie conditions. But nope. Umbrella-less and left scrambling for a dugout and gracious for a moment of shelter. I always say next time I’ll be better prepared. I might learn one day.
While the rain didn’t have a lasting impact on play at Ulverstone, it did at Darcy Street. The conditions caused havoc on the preferred method of short passes for both teams. Olympia found their moment to power through and secured the win. But South Hobart missed an opportunity to change things up and chase down the Warriors in a second half begging for a spark. A switch up to longer balls and less short passing with their pace in the front line, could’ve sent Olympia backpedaling.
The only time to actively support 433 as a formation is its flexibility to move from a 451 in defence to three in attack. Kingborough provided this early, and forced Ulverstone to be creative for any bite at the cherry. The winner being a goal steered through traffic is a strong reflection of the match.
The Lions set out defensively, wary of opponents who have grown into the competition. Importantly though, despite the respect shown early, Kingborough looked to win, moving to three forwards to hunt down a goal in the second half. While Ulverstone’s defence held strong and the midfield battles placed a cap on creativity, there was a hunger from both teams to win the game.
(Again, for a full report on the Ulverstone v Kingborough game, it’s up at Slice of Cheese)
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, goalkeepers are the cornerstone to any team. Nothing reinforces a backline more than a goalkeeper.
This weekend Kingborough returned Olivia Gardner. The difference was stark. Suddenly missing were the wayward backpasses and clumsy clearances. Their opponent was restricted to one proper opportunity from a turnover in the high press late in the match, which was deftly dealt with. Most importantly was Gardner’s guidance of a young backline. Her organisation and encouragement is a gamechanger in more ways than any keepers shot stopping abilities.
At the other end of the state, Georgia McMullen pulled out a worldie of a performance. For pure shot stopping, the South Hobart goalkeeper was Cadbury level of quality. Time and again called upon, and many times Olympia was denied from further extending the lead due to the hands of McMullen. That the second half remained goalless is squarely on the shoulders of the keeper.
Best Starting IX
Speak to a number of teams about how their faring, especially when injuries have hit, there will be a grumble “if only we could have our favoured (or consistent) starting XI”. Even with teams that have a “deeper” bench that requires rotation, there are usually core players who are non-negotiables on the team sheet.
South Hobart riding high on confidence fronted up against Olympia without one of their non-negotiables in Phoebe Djakic. Usually such a decision would be forced through injury or unavailability. The reality of seeing Djakic listed and hearing she played earlier in the day in the Southern Championship 1 is a head scratcher. There’s no doubt the South forward is a goal poacher and can produce something special out of very little. When battling a side that’s yet to concede, you generally want that arsenal at your disposal.
The decision to demote Djakic to the Championship leads to the fear the omission of Monika Orlowski, who has been a rock at centre back for the Reds, might not have been forced. You’ve got to hope it was forced, otherwise questions need to be asked in how South approach matches. They’ve shown they have the quality to win matches. To find consistency and level it against the “big boys” the best starting XI needs to be on the pitch.
Shifting Through Gears
Something that the Lions tried to do but failed at Ulverstone when digging deep to find an equaliser. Something the Warriors did very well when the game was deadlocked after 20 minutes. The pace of Bonnie Davies was the game changer. Prior, South and Olympia had been playing at the same level. Both with chances, looking kinda threatening and South probably with the best chance when Charlotte Ingham forced an outstretched save from Jenna Farrow. But then it ignited.
The whole team lifted at once, on song and three goals was the reward. An example of the Warriors shift was the second goal. Sophie Leszcynski won the ball, with her head up she drove into space, picked out a pass that saw Mia Cane fire off a shot. The effort was denied by McMullen, but ultimately finished by Olivia Bomford.
No travel required for the match at Darcy Street. Streams are gold, I can sit at home and watch, bellissimo. It’s really encouraging to see more of the Women’s Super League filmed. Sure there’s room for improvement, with other state’s streaming every NPLW match. But it’s better than last season. The small wins need to be celebrated.
Now to bring a live stream from Ulverstone in the North West…