Gladesville Ravens welcomed the first pre-season fixture of 2022 in preparation for a massive 30 game season in the newly named Football NSW Girls Youth League 2 with a chance to set the tone for the year ahead against one of last year’s entertainers, Central Coast Mariners. Two well taken goals from Ravens new striker Maya Jones bookended an exciting game, where further goals from Alessia Rizzuto and Anna Wroughton followed an Anika Francis piledriver for the visitors.
The change in venue and kick off time had its casualties, with players now unavailable, but Ravens still had a strong team on paper. With local MP Roy Maggio on the whistle, there would be no nonsense, and it was warm sunshine that greeted the start of the game despite the previous game being played in a a hazy drizzle. Ravens threatened up the right early on, Sophie Steele and Emilija Jaglica busy as the black and whites played towards the end of Christie Park under construction. The classy midfield play of Alessia Rizzuto started to have influence on the game, and it was from some good endeavour in the middle of the park that Ravens took a lead in freakish circumstances. A clearance was helped back into the area from the right and Jones reached with her long leg to connect beautifully and send the ball over the keeper and into the net for 1-0, echoes of Kennet Andersson for Sweden in the 1994 World Cup.
The home team expected a reaction, and there certainly was. The dangerous Eliza Familton, the thorn in Ravens’ side last season, had already shown how easily she could get the ball into the area, and this time she scampered down the right, her cross falling for Anika Francis who took a touch and drilled the ball goalwards. Ravens keeper Chloe McCredie was beaten by the pace of the shot that seared into the goal and the Mariners had their instant reply.
Ravens didn’t waver though, and they grabbed a second after a dynamic run from Jones saw her burst through the defence, beating three to shoot. The shot was blocked and fell invitingly for Billie Letsios, who worked the space beautifully but was thwarted. The ball dropped for the incoming Wroughton who tucked a low shot under the keeper for 2-1.
Good battling at the back kept the skillful Mariners at bay. McCredie went down to save well at her near post, and her distribution kept the momentum going. Anika Watson played in Jones who battled well with her defender to win a corner. She swung over the corner herself, the set-piece routine in full effect, and the ball was spilled by the visiting keeper. Rizzuto was on it in a flash to turn the ball home with a sweeping finish to notch the third Ravens goal. The sight of debutant Annike Mai Lee racing off the field and vaulting the fence to throw up in the bin was a sign of the effort being put in today by the players. Jackie Rice kept the forward momentum going, battling well down the right to keep Ravens deep in the Mariners half.
Ravens 3-1 up at the break then, and no respite from the hot conditions as the second half got under way after a well-earned break in the changing rooms.
The second half was an absorbing affair. Ravens weren’t given much time or space by their opponents, and had to be switched on at all times to keep the Mariners away from their six yard box. Steele though played a quick throw-in that caught the visitors off guard, but Jones was crowded out. Charlotte Douglas then battled for the ball in midfield and played in Jones who unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that was saved well on the stretch.
Sophie Retallick showed some trickery to create a number of crossing opportunities that were dealt with well, Aurelia Smith just getting her foot to a cross to divert it from the lurking striker’s finish. Smith and her central defensive partner Ava Pirrozzi were kept busy, and the fullbacks Stef Lakic and Jas Waters were calm under pressure as Mariners attacked. Milla Melverton had a great chance to punish the Ravens from a turnover as the clock ticked towards the end, McCredie saving well, and Hayley Newson had a snap shot turned away from eight yards out. A relieving freekick in the middle of the park finally gave the Ravens some respite. Smith lifted the ball forward, two defenders confused each other and Jones ran on to finish a 1-on-1 with the keeper to blow the score out to an impressive four goals to one.
There was time for Kara Bloomfield to show some trickery down the right, and for Angie Le Roux to show more of her blistering speed down the Ravens left before the referee brought the game to a close.
Ravens will take a lot of positives out of this early pre-season match-up with one of their Division 2 opponents, despite the game being in the balance for much of the game. On another day, Mariners could have turned the screw, but coach Stephen Bott will have taken note of where Ravens could tighten up and Mariners will know that with some more clinical finishing and more assured defending, the score could have been very different today. Ravens now move on to a second pre-season game against local rivals Inter Lions at Majors Bay next Sunday. Stay tuned!