Gladesville Ravens 1 Central Coast Mariners 2

Gladesville Ravens’ Girls Youth League Under 15 Division 2 continued their slump in form at the home of football Christie Park but were only beaten by the odd goal in a game where clear chances were at a premium. Central Coast’s domination was evident early on, but they went behind through a Sophie Steele corner before Lily Watkiss levelled things up before half time direct from a free kick. An even second half saw the teams separated by another freak goal at the National Park end, with Anika Francis claiming the winner.

Goalkeeper Lucy Goss lined up for the home team, who were without ace striker Maya Jones and with exciting midfielder Marli Williams also missing, options up front were limited. Ravens did welcome back Ava Pirozzi to the defence. The Mariners had familiar faces Eliza Familton and Charli Blackamore in their team and were looking to exact revenge for a surprise defeat here in pre-season.

Sophie Rettalick gave us a first glimpse of what to expect, racing through two challenges to win a corner. Sienna Bell and Familton then clashed in the middle of the park, the Ravens midfielder taking time to receive treatment, before Rettalick centred well for Anika Francis to head just over. Goss was having a busy time, claiming one swirling cross at the second attempt and showing a good command of the area. She could do nothing though when Familton was held up by Jas Waters and fed Alexia Karas, whose shot rifled into the bottom corner. After some deliberation, the referee decided that the ball had gone out for a goal kick before the cross, a decision that was as bewildering as it was unexpected.

When Aurelia Smith was dispossessed as Ravens played out from the back, Goss saved well and sent the ball up field. A great move saw Alessia Rizzuto and Tahlia Butcher combine, before teeing up Jackie Rice for an attempt on goal from distance. She opted to offload though, and the attempted pass to Ella Moar in space saw a lovely passage of play break down. All of a sudden though Ravens took the lead. A corner was conceded as Anika Watson looked to thread the ball through for Butcher. Steele floated the ball in, but the lack of runners in the area meant a regulation catch for goalkeeper Emily Miles. Inexplicably she went with the feet, and the ball somehow bounced in past the defender on the line. Ravens delighted to be leading, Mariners shell-shocked that their dominance had been rewarded with a goal against.

When Watson did feed Butcher, she cleverly set up Rizzuto for a shot that was blocked. Ravens had their tails up, but they were immediately under pressure again when a cheap free kick allowed Kara Bloomfield to fire in a shot that cleared the bar. A poorly executed goalkick routine let Karas get in another shot that was well saved, Francis then fired wide after a powerful run and Karas’ clever ball through for Familton led to another corner. The corner from Watkiss was deflected and somehow missed everyone as it flashed across goal. Bloomfield’s corner from the other side was headed over by Rettalick.

It took a generous free kick award on the edge of the area to unlock the Ravens defence, Watkiss lifting in a cross-shot which went through everyone and in at the near post; a deserved equaliser but not from one of their easier chances. Watkiss again shot from distance, Goss saving well, before Annika Lee somehow escaped a yellow card with a full-blooded tackle, scything down her player, stopping play for a moment while her dazed opponent scraped herself off the floor. The half ended with Mariners in full attack mode, Francis smashed one in that Ravens’ shot-stopper Goss saved, before a moment of confusion saw Lee touch the ball back to Goss who fielded the ball; the referee though had his whistle ready to blow for half-time and a calamitous indirect free-kick situation was avoided.

With coach Stephen Bott’s instructions ringing in their ears, Ravens appeared for the second half ready to fire, but they were nearly undone by their own mistake again, the short goalkick catching Smith out, and eventually newly introduced Chloe McCredie did well to make the save. A slip in the penalty area then presented Steele with a chance to advance on goal, but she fired wide after getting into a good position. A meaty challenge on Bell then saw her left on the ground holding her ankle; it looked serious and she was helped from the field in obvious distress. A goalkick was the reward for putting herself in bravely where it hurts, Zoe Twining appearing as a replacement for the stricken midfielder.

A tasty move involving Rice and Steele saw Butcher teed up, but the shot was screwed wide. The game was in the balance, play was ebbing and flowing between the penalty areas. When Angie Le Roux battled well but gave the ball away, a swift move saw Waters shoved off the ball down the right. That created room for Francis to advance and she played in a cross straight at McCredie. However, in a carbon copy of the Ravens goal at the same end, the ball somehow squirmed straight through her grasp and into the net to send the Mariners into the lead for the first time. It was Francis again a few minutes later who unleashed from distance, this time McCredie taking the safe option and pushing the ball wide.

The excellent Stef Lakic, who had been playing an advanced role today, found herself advancing on the penalty area with time running out. Her shot was sliced at by a defender, and with the goals that we’d seen today, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see it nestle in the goal, however the ball was ushered wide and Ravens last chace was gone. A final chance did fall to the visitors, Bailey Buckby smashing in a shot that was fielded by McCredie at the second go.

The final whistle sounded; Mariners were good value for their win and deserved the three points today. The home team definitely have the potential to give some of the big teams a run for their money, but today never looked like being their day.

Ravens move on to an Easter Monday clash with Nepean back at Christie Park; the Mariners also host Nepean on Good Friday in a massive Easter weekend of NPL football. The football is coming thick and fast as teams catch up after all the washouts. Stand by for more excitement as the entertainers from the Under 15 Ravens look to turn their season back around.

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