Gladesville Ravens travelled to the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney to the ES Marks Sports Ground to take on University of NSW on the opening day of the 2021 NPLW Under 14s season.
Ravens were in control early on, Jackie Rice putting them on their way with two goals, before Sylvie Karena pulled back a goal just before the break.
Anna Wroughton’s cool finish looked to be enough to seal the win for the Ravens, but a free header from Goldie Van Dyke and a freak last gasp equaliser from Olivia Vacchio rescued a point for the hosts in an absorbing encounter.
A sunny morning at ES Marks field in Moore Park was the venue for this Easter Monday round one match. UNSW boasted two former Ravens in their ranks with goalkeeper Nikita Hardiman and tenacious midfielder Ava Fazio coming up against their old teammates.
Gladesville took the game to UNSW, Lexi Mavraidis finding a great deal of room down the right early on. A low shot from fellow debutant Rice opened the scoring, and she followed that up with a fabulous run and shot that beat Hardiman at the near post. When striker Sage Melhem rifled a shot against the underside of the bar with a snapshot, that was the second time Ravens had hit the woodwork in a matter of minutes. At the other end, stand in goalkeeper Amelia Shepherd had to be busy to smother a shot from the right. Her clearances were booming, but she was unlucky to see a long range shot from Sylvie Karena spill through her grasp on the stroke of half time. A one goal lead was scant reward for the dominant visitors.
The second half was a much more even affair. Sienna Bell was busy down the Ravens right, while Van Dijk was involved in most of the UNSW attacks. When Ravens midfielder Wroughton cut inside from the right and finished coolly inside the far post, Ravens must have thought the game was won, but they didn’t count on a late rally from the hosts. The warning signs had been coming from a dangerous corner from the UNSW right, and it was a second corner that saw Van Dijk take advantage of the freedom of the Ravens penalty area to head home unchallenged. With time running out, a break saw Ravens defender Issy Franks clear the ball confidently, but the ball cannoned back off the striker and past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Shepherd before being swept into the goal by Vacchio for 3-3.
On the balance of play, a draw was perhaps the right result. Despite the first half dominance of the black and whites, the yellows of UNSW rallied well in the second half and battled well until the end to snatch a point.
Stand-in coach for Gladesville today, Andrew Gailbraith, was glowing about rookie goalkeeper Shepherd’s performance, and was impressed with the work rate of the team in their first game in NPL.