South Coast Flame 1 Gladesville Ravens 1

Gladesville Ravens’ Under 15s pre-season campaign continued with a trip to Port Kembla, the impressive Ian McLennan Park the venue for a match up with fellow Youth League Division 2 outfit South Coast Flame. Two goals in quick succession lit up the second half and both sides went close to snatching a victory in the closing stages in a well-matched contest.

Ravens were without a number of key players through injury, illness and unavailability, calling on a number of the Under 14s squad to make the step up to bolster the numbers. The quality was there in spades, and the depth at the club is becoming evident on occasions like this.

It was South Coast who started brightest in the breezy conditions, Indiana Garvan making inroads down the right, giving Jas Waters plenty to think about. A free-kick coughed up by the visitors’ Ella Moar was swung in by Abbey Haley but the defence stood firm. Annika Lee finally got the visitors going, showing her pace down the right, before they fashioned the first chance of the game, Maya Jones setting up Jackie Rice, whose shot was saved.

Ravens rode their luck in defence, goalkeeper Chloe McCredie’s unusually stray clearance not punished by the attacker who shot tamely over. There was controversy soon after as Charlotte Douglas casually rolled a back pass to McCredie who confidently picked the ball up and played on, the referee seeing nothing wrong despite the protests from the home team.

Ravens then fashioned a delightful move, the busy Anika Watson threading the ball to Rice, who instantly offloaded the ball for Jones to run on to and the shot bounced off the far post with the keeper beaten. Stef Lakic then played in Rice who didn’t quite catch the shot, before the lively Alessia Rizzuto whipped in a cross that Angie Le Roux was unlucky not to connect with.

With Ravens in the ascendency, they pressed for the opening goal, Rizzuto sliding a ball through for Jones who was closed down, before Moar tricked her marker and crossed, Anna Wroughton and Jones combined and Rice shot just wide. A superb opening half was brought to a close, the teams unable to be separated, but the visitors with the lion’s share of attacking possession.

The second half saw the play open up, but the goals still wouldn’t come. Rizzuto played in Rice whose shot was saved, Rice then released Le Roux who went on the rampage down the right to win a corner. Up the other end, a swift break brought McCredie way out of her goal as an emergency sweeper, where she was joined by the calm head of Ava Pirrozzi who cleared before South Coast could capitalise on the unguarded goal. McCredie has impressed so far this pre-season with her cool head and expert handling; perhaps she was feeling under-employed in the early stages of the second half.

Ravens ramped up the pressure, a quick Lakic throw-in finding Le Roux who fed Rice, but the shot looped high in the air, meat and drink for the excellent home keeper. Rizzuto then played in Jones who shot just over from the left. It was therefore a surprise when South Coast Flame took the lead, and what a good build-up it was. Garvan controlled down the right and shimmied past her defender. The galloping run led to a cross into the corridor of uncertainty and McCredie made herself big but was powerless as Ruby Milosevski ghosted in unmarked at the far post to steer the ball home for 1-0.

A minute later though the scores were level. The excellent Lakic played in Lucy Chandlok. Her ball inside to Billie Letsios was expertly laid into the path of Jones who took a touch and finished coolly, giving the keeper no chance. Rizzuto was then involved in Ravens’ best passage of play, playing in Letsios whose shot was saved, before unleashing from 20 yards, again the keeper saving well. Sophie Steele raced up the right to cross, but the chance went begging. Up the other end, Zali Wallace raced onto a clearance as South Coast tried to catch the visitors on the counter attack, and the resulting corner was dealt with well by the Ravens defence.

A five-on-four break by Ravens then should have paid dividends, Rizzuto shooting just past the outstretched foot of the keeper and wide, before Rice was played in by Rizzuto, her shot saved, and a stray boot from a defender almost resulted in a freak own goal. The final chance fell to Rice after Rizzuto marauded down the right to cross, this time the tame shot easily fielded. The all-action Rizzuto then escaped punishment for a blatant shirt pull as South Coast threatened to mount one last attack. The final whistle sounded, players dropped to their knees in exhaustion and a tough game had ended in warm applause for an absorbing 1-1 draw.

Ravens now move on to a blockbuster final pre-season fixture with last season’s gun team SD Raiders at Christie Park, one of only three friendlies taking place with the Proctor Cup involving the other clubs in Bathurst on the weekend.

Well done both teams on a fine spectacle today. Thanks to Matt for the cracking photos, to Veo for the match video and to everyone for their unwavering support of the Under 15s as they head into their most important season to date.

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