Match of the Round
New Lambton 5 (Lauren Allan 2, Emmeline Pepper 2, Georgia Amess) def. Merewether 0
Sunday 28 April, 2.30pm, Alder Park
New Lambton has walked away with the spoils in the Herald Women’s Premier League’s (WPL) high profile Match of the Round, with a second-half scoring spree sealing the deal for the league leaders.
The Eagles welcomed defending champions Merewether to their nest on Sunday afternoon, and all eyes fixed on the major battle set to unfold at Alder Park. After just one goal, which was lofted home from Lauren Allan after she found a header onto Georgia Amess’ counter-attack cross, separated the sides, it looked likely to go the distance.
Rhali Dobson had a chance to level proceedings after her shot from the edge of the 18-yard pinged the crossbar. The dribbling rebound gave her a second chance, but United’s only shot on target for the day was wrapped up by Imogene Tomasone.
A key message came from Keelan Hamilton at halftime – New Lambton has struggled against Merewether in recent years, seeing them as “better than us”, and that had to change in the game. The Eagles coach preached belief in his side, and in their own ability.
It paid off, and New Lambton shook off their “demons from last year”. Amess especially took the message to heart as she slotted a far post-tap-in into the back of the net just moments after kick-off. Merewether hadn’t even had a chance to touch the ball.
“I was disappointed in the first half because we went away from what has made us successful, we were knocking balls up aimlessly,” Hamilton said.
“I told them we needed some faith in our possession. It worked well, and it was beautiful football because we kicked off and had that great spell and they didn’t touch the ball before we scored.”
The rout at Alder Park continued into the second half, as young striker Emmeline Pepper – playing up top in the absence of Westfield W-League forward Tara Andrews – slammed Merewether with a rapid-fire double in the 65th and 66th minutes. A chip over United’s ‘keeper Alison Logue tipped the game for the Eagles, before an Amess cross onto the boot of the 16-year-old star sealed the deal. Allan finished the game with her second ten minutes later.
“Hopefully the win was a statement to ourselves,” Hamilton said after the five-goal performance from his Eagles.
“We don’t have a lot of big-name players, our defensive line was made up of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds today, and our striker leading the line was a 16 year old. We beat a team that has a lot of big names, and a lot of talent above the WPL.
“We beat Warners Bay without Tara and beat Merewether without her and Stacey [Day]. I think we’ve shown ourselves that if we can buy into our belief, we can match anyone.”
Merewether boss Cass Koppen, who stands as the defending championship coach off the back of the 2018 season, revealed after her side’s heavy loss heads were on the chopping block after “the season begins to slip away.”
“We lost the mental battle, simple as that,” the Merewether coach said.
“I’m not willing to accept any excuses from the players anymore, we failed to stick to our gameplan, got beaten individually, and individual performances lost us the game.
“I’m not willing to use the inconsistent lineups as an excuse for us any longer, my players have to just go away now and reassess their individual performances, and have a good long think about their commitment to playing in the Premier League.”
For the United commander, if there isn’t an upswing in the champions’ camp in the coming weeks, the door from the reserves to the top grade is “standing wide open”.
“The players have been put on notice, it’s the premier league and you can’t just rock up and expect results. The team needs some heroes that are going to create something out of nothing, or put the ball into the back of the net, or make that goal-saving tackle,” Koppen said.
“Right now there’s no one in the team doing that, and it’s putting the premiership so far away in the distance. If that continues, we’ll have to look to the future, and prepare young, hungry players for finals now.
“We have some great young stars knocking on the door, and I’m more than happy to stick them in the starting lineup if players don’t start performing.”
South Wallsend (Ashlee Brodigan 2, Maryjane Mason 2, Gemma Harrison, Erin Wilson) 6 def. Football Mid North Coast 0
Sunday 28 April, 2.30pm, John Street Oval
South Wallsend have continued their resurgence as the second third of the season ticks on, retaining third place with a 6-nil win over a travelling Football Mid North Coast.
Although the Wolves notched a half dozen at John Street Oval, coach Cas Wright revealed her focus moving beyond the match would be “shooting practice”, however.
It took nearly half an hour to crack a defensively solid Mid North Coast outfit, and the South Wallsend boss feels her team needs to capitalise on missed opportunities if they want to continue collecting three points week after week.
Despite Wright’s focus on conversion and goalscoring, Ashlee Brodigan and Maryjane Mason both continued their streaks of finding the back of the net, each scoring two in the first half to break open Mid North Coast’s defensive cohesion. Gemma Harrison and Erin Wilson added to the host of goals with two in the second half to put the game beyond doubt.
“Middies had changed their formation, and it took us a long time to figure it out,” Wright said.
“We were missing Gema [Simon] and Kirstyn [Pearce] so without them it was different, but we were able to maintain and that’s good to see that when we’re missing two key players we can keep up the same game plan and play the same.
“Credit to Mid North Coast, they put in a strong and physical effort and knocked the girls off course a bit. We were goalless there for a while because of their efforts, and their intensity, so credit to them. They were really good.”
While Wright saw Mid North Coast as a strong defensive outfit at John Street Oval, the travelling northern boss Mick Grass felt it was “probably the worst game [the team] had played.”
“The first fifteen or twenty minutes went okay, then we lost concentration for the rest of the half and we were four-nil down at half time,” he said.
“South Wallsend are great, don’t get me wrong, but we didn’t give as good as an account as we have in the past few weeks.
“It was just one of those days. I don’t know how else you can explain the difference between last week and this week, because it was just a different kettle of fish altogether.”
Adamstown Rosebuds 0 def. by Warners Bay 2 (Jenna Kingsley 2)
Sunday 28 April, 2.30pm, Adamstown No.1 Oval
Adamstown may not have walked away with the three points at their home fixture against Warners Bay, but for coach Paul Devitis the improvement was nearly as good as a win.
After falling to the Panthers 9-1 in the opening match of the season, the Rosebuds turned their defensive cohesion around and kept the second place team to just two goals – both to Jenna Kingsley – at Adamstown No.1 Oval in their second meeting.
Devitis revealed his players came off the field “really happy with how the game went”, with the morale and self-confidence of the team beginning to bubble to the brim.
“From a coach’s perspective to go from a 9-1 loss to a 2-nil loss is very pleasing indeed,” he said.
“To go into the sheds at just 1-nil meant we were right in the game, and even that goal was a bit of a bodgy one so we were really confident in ourselves.
“Our shape was fantastic, and it was really hard for them to break us down. I think two of our key players in the game were Elly Cook and Ryley Field, who both contributed massively to keeping our composure across the park.
“They’re both seventeen years old, with Elly in the backline, and Ryley moving from the forwards into the midfield to give us an extra bit of quality on the ball in the middle against Nadja [Squires] and Cassidy [Davis]. They were the key to our defensive strengths, and it was just fantastic to see.”
Devitis also said he was glad to see the game had been a “pleasant outing” for both teams. After he had revealed to Northern NSW Football in the pre-match build-up how many friends dotted the park on either side, it was no surprise.
“We were saying, and a few people came up to me at the end at commented on it, that it was just a nice game to watch,” he said.
“There was no nastiness, no bad tackles, and not many free kicks had to be given out. It’s great to see games like that, they’re a joy to be a part of.”
Thornton Redbacks 1 (Sophie Milton) def. by Wallsend 3 (Libby Copus-Brown, Kaylah Pisani, Jess Evans)
Sunday 28 April, 2.30pm, Thornton Park
The final game of the Herald Women’s Premier League was clouded by the injury to Wallsend’s talismanic midfielder Libby Copus-Brown, who was rushed to hospital by ambulance after the full-time whistle.
While Brad Jones said Copus-Brown’s injury and the unknown for his squad when it came to their teammate “took the gloss off both team’s performances”, the Red Devils coach was still pleased with how his side had responded to the match.
“Firstly the team showed they were mentally strong when Libby went down because it’s hard to play when you don’t know what’s happening with your friend, but they were able to get the job done,” he said.
Copus-Brown had starred earlier in the affair as well, for a far more positive reason. After nearly an hour without a goal at Thornton Park, Wallsend was beginning to believe the Redbacks may lock them out of a chance away from home.
Then the Jets midfielder “took the game by the scruff” and fired off a shot from nearly 40 yards away from goal. Just as Copus-Brown had done in the W-League to earn Goal of the Month, the young star lofted her shot into the top corner to break open the game.
“If BarTV Sports had been in attendance the race for the goal of the season would already be over. It was just pure class,” Jones said.
“Libby looked at the situation and said “I’m going to change it”, and she pulled that out of the top drawer.”
After Copus-Brown’s Herculean effort to put the Red Devils into the lead, Kaylah Pisani pounced soon after to double her side’s advantage. Thornton struck back through Sophie Milton, but a late strike from Jess Evans kept Wallsend in the lead to the death.
“Major credit to Thornton, I thought their game plan was to put us out of our comfort zone and turn that into points, and they did a really good job.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go to Thornton Park again. Any team going up there needs to be ready, they’re going to be in for a battle.”
Redbacks coach Alan Primmer also believed his side had pulled off their game plan well but admitted he may have to go away and figure out how to stop ‘wonder goals’ if he wanted the defensive focus to succeed.
“You just can’t counteract a 40-yard cracker that hits the top corner, I haven’t quite figured out how to stop that one yet,” Primmer laughed after the match.
“We did what we said we’d do and frustrated the hell out of them. The air went out of our tyres a bit after Libby’s screamer, but I was very, very pleased with how we played in both halves. Our structure may not please everyone we play, but we want to make teams happy that they got away with points, and I think we’ve done that.”