A valiant performance from Gladesville Ravens couldn’t stop the SD Raiders juggernaut on Sunday as the league leaders did enough to take all three points.
A strike midway through the second half from Jayde Freeman preserved the home side’s perfect start to the season at Ernie Smith Reserve.
Despite some heavy pressure from the Raiders, the visiting Ravens were always in the game and can take solace from their performance despite leaving empty handed.
Beautiful conditions for football on a Mothers’ Day Sunday morning, the Ravens were coming into this fixture on the back of their first win of the season, while the table-topping SD Raiders had the week off after their impressive win against the Central Coast Mariners.
With strong defender Carisa Herrera commanding the back line and a midfield boasting stars Olivia D’Alessandro and Olivia Riquelme, SD Raiders were looking solid. Their calm passing, expert use of the body and patient build-up was very easy on the eye. Ravens though did fashion the first chance of the game, Alessia Rizzuto slipping a ball through for Ella Moar, who shot early, well saved by Elisha Cassarino in the Raiders goal. A flurry of free kicks to the home side were dangerously dispatched, Ravens keeper Chloe Mccredie making a good save down to her right to parry a looping shot and gathering the rebound under heavy pressure.
SD Raiders’ superstar Lacey Wynne was coming into the game a lot more, tormenting the visitors’ defence with some delightful turns and trickery, at one point selling a dummy and turning four times to try and beat Sienna Bell, but the Ravens defender would remain strong. With the Messi-like Abbie Puckett pulling the strings in midfield it seemed like a matter of time before the home side scored, but it was Gladesville who fashioned the best chance of the half, a clever triangle of passes down the right falling for Anna Wroughton, who fizzed in a shot from twenty yards that was palmed away by Cassarino and hacked off the line. A moment to remember at the end of the half saw Sage Melhem lose her boot in a tackle down the Ravens right – she stooped and picked it up, and played on, winning a throw-in to the delight of the travelling support in the main stand. The scores were deadlocked at 0-0, but the stats showed healthy possession for the home team with another thirty minutes to come.
Raiders started the second half with vim and vigour, the swaggering Wynne finding space down the left, but the visitors central defence of Aurelia Smith and Ava Pirozzi were dealing with everything that came their way. Mccredie did dally on a back pass to present a chance to the home side but saved well on the follow up, and she then made a fine stop from a snap shot from a stray throw in, pushing the ball behind for a corner.
The goal came midway through the half, some enterprising play in midfield releasing Freeman, who opened up her body and finished confidently in the bottom right hand corner of the goal. Ravens were stung into action. They were missing the wing play of Lexi Mavraidis today, but Bell and Eme Johnson started to find some joy. Moar bundled through down the left at one point to be eased off the ball, going down in the area, but the referee wasn’t interested.
Jackie Rice, who had been shackled all game, then found space down the right and skipped clear of two challenges, a ball swept into the area but no one able to connect, and the visitors earned a series of corners that were delivered dangerously to give the Raiders defence a stern test. Another talking point towards the end of the game, Pirozzi miskicking a defensive free kick, the ball only travelling a metre or two, and with the Raiders closing in, she took a second kick at the ball and set Ravens on the attack. The referees didn’t pick up on it and Moar was unlucky to be shepherded away from goal and the chance disappeared.
An absorbing game was over, a hard-earned one-goal win the sign of potential champions. The scoreline perhaps didn’t reflect the dominance in midfield by SD Raiders, but Gladesville Ravens displayed a never-say-die attitude in this very tricky fixture and came out of the game disappointed not to have snatched a valuable point. Well done to both teams. SD Raiders continue their push for the Premiership next week with a trip to Nepean, while Ravens travel to St George Stadium in a mid-table battle.