A stubborn Gladesville Ravens defence was finally undone at Christie Park as the intense Central Coast Mariners’ pressure paid off in a 3-1 victory to the visitors.
An opening goal from the powerful Eliza Familton was cancelled out approaching half-time by a shot from Sienna Bell that squeezed into the net at the near post. A second-half strike from Claire Denning restored the lead, before an unfortunate Lucy Hardaker own goal sealed the points for the high-flying Mariners.
Ravens stirred late and went close to reducing the arrears, but the visitors from the Central Coast held tight to maintain the 3-1 win.
An early kick off, both teams were on the field by 7.45am, warming up as the sun warmed up the dew on the pristine surface of Christie Park, the home of football in North West Sydney. Mariners looked to get back to winning ways following their surprise home loss to South East Phoenix, while the Ravens were smarting from their slow start at St George and needed a good performance to change the mood.
Ravens were on the attack early on as they started brightly. A clearance from Emily Miles in the Mariners goal fell straight to Lexi Mavraidis who passed up a shot from distance at the open goal, the option of the pass inside to Jackie Rice snuffed out and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief. The yellows of the Central Coast took the lead soon after, a marauding break from Familton down the right expertly finished past the helpless Chloe Mccredie in the Ravens goal. A second chance within 60 seconds almost made it 2-0, anothr shot from Familton deflected just past the post as Mariners threatened to run riot.
With Alexia Karis running the midfield, Mariners kept up the pressure as Ravens fought hard to contain the lively Imogen Tanti on the right side of midfield. It was tough on the visitors then when they conceded the equalising goal, Bell getting two chances to shoot from the right side of a busy penalty area. Her shot lacked any power, but Miles misjudged the pace of the shot and let the ball slip between her leg and the near post for a freak goal, Bell racing away in delight at her first goal for the club.
Ravens were immediately under pressure again, Grace Rae-Banks scuffing a shot wide when well placed, then Denning screwed a shot wide with the goal at her mercy. Mariners were disappointed then to be going in at the break with the scores level having dominated the half. Ravens had been patient and had something to build on from half time.
The game was finely poised midway through the second half. Denning had been thwarted by Mccredie, racing bravely off her line to dive at her feet and Denning had a good shot from distance that went close. The busy Mccredie saved a shot on the line as Ravens continued to frustrate. At the other end the electric pace of Charli Blackamore kept Ravens at bay and the visiting team continued to threaten through Familton down the right hand side.
The game was heading for a draw when the pressure finally paid off. A ball whipped into the box caught Ravens defender Aurelia Smith by surprise, and the ball fell kindly for the lurking Denning to hammer home for 2-1. A series of corners were well dealt with by the Ravens defence, but it was from a looping cross that the Mariners jagged a third, Hardaker rising to head into her own net to finally put the result beyond doubt.
A late chance for Ravens from the dynamic Georgia Lim was spurned, the shot fired over from the edge of the area, and the game was brought to a close by the referee. An enjoyable game for the spectator, Mariners were worthy winners in a tense battle.
Ravens now need to pick themselves up for a trip to Nepean next week, but will be encouraged by their resolute defensive display in this one. The Mariners will be looking for goals against the league’s bottom club Inter Lions when the two sides meet next Sunday. The race for the top is looking tasty and the Mariners are well and truly in that race. Well done to both teams today for a fine spectacle, enjoyed by all who watched on at the home of football at Christie Park.