Feature Image: Amanda Williams (Backline Photography)
A new team cemented their spot at the summit of the NPLW, Lakeside Stadium hosted a third goal-fest in as many weeks while Southern United gain ground on a finals berth at the expense of Alamein FC. Here’s how the week’s fixtures played out in the NPLW.
A six-goal thriller boiled down to one very familiar name as Melina Ayres bailed out South Melbourne with an equaliser off the bench against Galaxy United at Lakeside Stadium.
The visitors got off the a fast start, scoring three times in the opening half, with their first coming after just 13 minutes.
A tussle on the edge of the penalty box saw Leigh Gray brought down by a covering Victoria Argyropoulos, which gave Adriana Taranto an early opportunity over a set-piece, 20-yards from goal.
The resulting free-kick lacked power behind it, but it was poorly dealt with by Molly-May Ramsay, who could only parry the tame effort into her own net in the 13th minute.
Galaxy’s ascendency in the contest was further extended by Gray who was able to out-body Alex Gummer in a 50-50 to win a loose flick on from Whitney Knight, before applying a low finish across the face of goals.
South forced their way back into the contest with a brilliant effort from Natalie Martineau on the half hour mark, who rounded the Galaxy keeper before sliding a finish in on a tight angle, but the visitors were able to soon restore their two-goal buffer heading into the half-time break.
The impressive Annabel Martin was able to wriggle free on the right flank before fizzing a low cross through the box, with Caitlin Pickett there to convert at the far post for her side’s third of the half.
With it all to do, South turned to their star forwards to turn the tide of the performance.
A darting run into the box from Lisa De Vanna four minutes from the restart saw the forward brought down by an onrushing Emily Kenshole inside the box, sending the hosts to the spot, where the Matildas captain converted the penalty she had won.
Socrates Nicolaidis turned to the bench to inject another layer of attacking threat into the contest with Ayres making her bow with 20 minutes on the clock, but she required just five of them to make her mark.
The forward handed South a lifeline with her 14th goal of the NPLW season, profiting from a De Vanna cut back to fire home through a sea of legs.
The six goals contest was interestingly the lowest goal tally that Lakeside Stadium has seen in the NPLW era, with the two previous fixtures at the ground ending in a 5-4 and 5-2 win against Bulleen and the NTC respectively.
The results of two Saturday afternoon fixtures help set up a tantalising six-point clash between Southern United and Alamein FC, who look to be the early contenders for a top four berth.
The game between the two clubs closed to one point after Southern’s narrow win over Bayside United, while Alamein succumbed to the might of Calder United in an efficient 2-0 win.
The Southern fixture saw a second Robers net against their former club in the space of a fortnight, with younger sister Elisabeth netting her first senior goal in a 1-0 win over the cellar-dwellers.
A ball from defender Mikhaila Bowden found the young midfielder who converted for what proved to be the winner in the 51st minute.
Over at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve, first half goals to Cindy Lay and Kasha Meyer saw big implications for the NPLW ladder as Calder climbed to top spot on goal difference, while Alamein saw their buffer on fourth spot closed to within a solitary point.
Alamein keeper Erin Hudson made a superb point-blank save with her head to deny Lay, but the attacker was able to get her own back with a poachers effort on the half-hour mark.
The in-form Lay struck the crossbar soon after with a curling effort from outside the box before they eventually broke through for a second.
Hudson was forced off at half-time due to the earlier blow, with the keeper fortunately suffering no serious damage, as confirmed by the Alamein camp.
Calder doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time through Kasha Meyer who sent a perfect glancing header across the face of goals from a Rachel Alonso corner.
The 2-0 result gives Calder the ascendency in the title race, with the reigning champs equal on points with Galaxy with a game in hand.
In Monday night’s groundbreaking NPLW debut on Flip TV, Heidelberg put in a comprehensive defensive display to effectively shut out the Bulleen Lions to claim a scoreless draw at the Veneto Club.
Lead by experienced campaigner Rita Mankowska, the Bergers rallied to pick up their first point in five fixtures and just their second clean sheet of the season.
The respective keepers weren’t tested with any real authority in the first half, with most chances landing in the breadbaskets of the custodians.
Shields was the busier of the two in the second half, making a great outstretched save to deny Cortnee Vine from a tight angle.
Vine had another good chance to break through as the Bulleen keeper was caught off her line, but the Bergers striker was unable to catch her shot cleanly as a tame effort rolled wide past the post.
The point lifts Heidelberg off the foot of the ladder, while it does little to aid Bulleen’s cause as they sit seven points off the pace of finals football.
The other fixture for Round Nine pitted mid-table sloggers Box Hill United and Senior NTC against each other, with the latter claiming a narrow 1-0 win away from home.
Box Hill had plenty of opportunities to break through but were halted on multiple occasions by an on-form Teresa Morrissey.
The visitors nabbed the go-ahead goal after 27 minutes through Lia Muldeary, who steered a powerful shot in off the post in the first half.
Melanie Camilleri appeared to have grabbed an equaliser just 12 minutes later, but was adjudged to have been offside.
Centre half’s Emma Littlewood and Claudia Mihocic did a respectable job for their respective sides to keep chances to a premium in a tense affair, with the NTC holding on in the end for their second win of the season.
It was also the lowest scoring affair involving the NTC this season, with fixtures involving the development program side going at an average of six goals per game prior to the match up.