Armed with a playlist of over 100 songs, I trekked to both sides of the state to catch two tight, scrappy and exciting matches. Who could blame me? A title and third place were up for grabs! Add in a sneaky Champ game with 6 goals. Plus there was another at the other end of the state which I’ve not written about because I was having too much fun speaking to people ahead of the 1v2 clash, but let me tell you there’s some impressive kids coming through.
The Headline Stealing Moment
Knowing a plan and putting a plan into action are two different concepts. For Clarence Zebras to be bold enough to even consider replacing a defender with a reserve goalkeeper and pushing up your regular guardian of the net into centre forward is wild. To actually execute the idea? A whole other ball game of pure determination to do anything required to win.
Shelley Cook took off her gloves on the 75th minute, and it was glorious. Not only was the number 1 turning heads, creating runs and unafraid to shoot, the change saw Clarence play with between 4 and 5 players on the last line of defence in the hunt for a comeback.
For a team written off as conservative in their approach to matches against Olympia this season, Sunday was anything but. Caution was thrown to the wind, and whilst the Warriors inflicted the pain of a loss on the Zebras, it can’t be pinned on a lack of trying.
The WSL silverware is destined for Warrior Park now after their 1-nil win over their title rivals. Significantly the result represents the growth and maturity Olympia have played with this season.
In the match itself, an early penalty for Clarence Zebras could’ve written a different story. A pivotal save by Jenna Farrow butted that out, however the Warriors didn’t seem frazzled or knocked by the situation. Rather than be jolted by the call, and the early Zebras dominance, they composed themselves, dug deep and found themselves on the score sheet about ten minutes later.
The measure of maturity can be done so in many ways. Another element is knowing how to adjust when necessary. Teams who win at the end of the season are the ones who know how to change things when it’s not working, grind out results and the moment to go back to the drawing board. The Warriors demonstrated that, both in this singular match and across the season.
Using the long balls instead of persistently keeping it short. Adding an extra defender when the game was drawing to an end and their defensive third was coming under fire. Simply not losing the plot after giving away a penalty, but using it to boost them. Sure, a fired up Bonnie Davies helped, but the other elements were just as important.
Last year this was a team on the cusp, left defeated against an outfit who had simply been there before and done it. The Warriors are finally not just on the cusp of greatness, they’re there.
Final Home Matches
Covid means Ulverstone tap out of home matches early due to ground availability. The feel of the last game was dimmed somewhat, playing on the adjacent pitch, without the full use of the club room. A small, but hearty crowd were on hand, with the home fans giving the Assistant Referee hell for mucking up the offside rule one too many times.
Much of it didn’t matter, it’s still a home match. The familiar faces were about. Chats with mates after the match occurred as always. I may have forgotten to eat anything between breakfast and 4 o’clock, but a sneaky maccas run on-route Hobart was always going to happen anyway.
Defenders to Kick Off Attacks
I’ve had a couple days to mull over Ulverstone’s 2-1 victory over South. The match was undoubtedly scrappy, but in a beautiful way of knowing both teams were leaving everything on the pitch.
Ulverstone’s high defensive line gave the crowd a pulmonary with an average AR. Naomi Berrell had an uncanny ability to deny Ulverstone on several occasions towards the end of the match. While South Hobart rode with a shoot on sight method vs Ulvies trigger shy moments.
One thing had me more excited more than these moments, the impact defenders had on attack.
Ball carrying defenders are pivotal. I’ve had the pleasure this season of watching Ulverstone execute this tactic numerous times. While Bridie Cooling set a fire up the chasing South Hobart from right back, to really switch the momentum into her side’s favour. In a match where any moment of controlled possession is precious, defenders who can keep the ball, break through a line and find feet with the next pass are gems.
The Thriller at Valley Road
Leaving a match at 3-all is cruel. Super cruel. Particularly when either side looks likely to score. That’s what happened on Friday, while I made the most of my final North West soccer trip of 2020, popping in to watch Devonport take on Northern Rangers.
The scoring began early and felt like it never really stopped. The opening goal arrived in a moment where Devonport looked to have finally woken up, showing interest in attacking, but were caught out on the counter. Typically the lead didn’t last long, a Strikers corner levelling play quickly.
Finding that free player in attack after drawing in a defence to the other side is something the Rangers have been particularly good at over the last few weeks. That’s exactly how the lead was restored.
The reply arrived with a strike that resonated with the men beside me, who all banged on the fence to show their appreciation for the top bins goal from the top of the area.
Another back post finish for the Rangers put their nose ahead before half time. But sheer pace off the counter levelled the scoring back to 3-all on the restart.
Northern Rangers wound up victors in the end, I can only imagine the goal was as thrilling as the previous 3 and that the Strikers chased to the last minutes for a reply.