A beautiful sunny Anzac Day in South Nowra was the setting for a thriller between two teams with conflicting form. The home side were riding high on the back of an enormous win against Inter Lions in NPL2, while the visitors were still looking for their first win and were goalless in two.
A first half strike from the Phoenix through livewire Lillian Skelly was cancelled out by Lexi Mavraidis for the Ravens. A free-kick from Skelly in the second half gave the home side the lead again for only a minute before Jackie Rice pounced to equalise for a second time.
Both teams created enough to win the game, but a draw was the right result and both teams earned a precious point.
An 8.30am kick off at the South Nowra Football Complex meant dawn service for many of the visiting players on a sparkling Sunday morning. A minute’s silence was impeccably observed by the players and spectators, a good crowd in the West Stand ready to see this Under 14 NPL2W Anzac Day clash between South East Phoenix and Gladesville Ravens.
The game got underway at speed, the home team putting their pace to good use in the middle of the park, while the visitors made their own in-roads down both flanks. Two duels were forming, Phoenix right back Jarla Last up against Ravens Mavraidis, whilst the visitors’ Sienna Bell and the home side’s Giorjet Pinkard enjoyed a tussle on the other flank.
The jinking runs of Skelly were causing much concern in the Ravens defence, and it was no surprise when she found space through the middle and caught out visiting keeper Chloe Mccredie with an early finish into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. Caitlin Loudon went close with a low shot that Mccredie smothered well from close range, and the home side enjoyed a period of dominance with a number of corners from the right.
The Ravens reacted, and it was a searching ball from Issy Franks, who released Sage Melhem down the right. She controlled well and fed the ball in for an unmarked Mavraidis to sweep the ball into the net from twelve yards out.
With the increasing influence of Bell up the right, Ravens were looking dangerous, but the final ball wasn’t finding the player and the game was poised evenly at 1-1 at the half time break.
The second half brought the visitors out of their shell, and they began to dictate the tempo. A confident save from Mccredie was almost undone though as she scuffed the drop kick, Tahlia Butcher eventually clearing up to remove the danger. Ella Moar then had a shot well saved as Ravens pressed and Rice almost charged down the goalkeeper to steal a goal. The home side took the lead though in controversial circumstances, Ravens defender Aurelia Smith harshly adjudged to have fouled Loudon despite clearly winning the ball. The resulting free kick was looped in by Skelly, catching Mccredie out and the ball floating in for 2-1.
Heads were in hands for the visiting team, but the Ravens were behind for only a minute. A precision through ball from midfield dynamo Alessia Rizzuto was calmly swept into the goal by Rice to cries of offside before being poleaxed by the advancing keeper Aysha Sanchez. A moment of uncertainty followed as the referee assessed the possibility of an offside but the goal stood.
Both teams pushed for a winner. Mccredie saved well from a shot from distance, before Ravens almost snatched it, Moar feeding Rice who couldn’t finish this time, and Anna Wroughton bending one in from distance that went just wide. There was time also for a heart stopping moment as Sanchez miskicked a goal kick across her goal and almost into her own goal, the keeper and defenders left with wry smiles as Jessica De Wit prevented the corner and Phoenix launched one final attack.
The referee brought the game to a close to warm applause from a bumper crowd. South East Phoenix might be disappointed with the result while Ravens will see this as a point gained after twice being behind. Ravens host Inter Lions next week as they look to kick start their season, while the Phoenix travel to high-flying Marconi Stallions for a tasty match-up.