Gladesville Ravens 1 Nepean 0

Gladesville Ravens snatched a slender one goal win in this Easter Monday fixture with Nepean FC, however they made a real meal of it. An unfortunate own goal from Jasmine D’Sena, deflecting in a corner from the Ravens right, was the difference between the teams in a game that could have gone either way. Despite dominating long periods of the game, the home team never looked comfortable and a final ten minutes that will give coach Stephen Bott grey hairs was somehow negotiated to seal the three points.

With no referee able to officiate this game due to an unusual scheduling mix-up, fortune smiled on the Ravens with top-tier official Simon Goss able to take command at the last minute. Nepean came into the game on the back of two defeats, and Ravens on the back of a three game losing streak, so something was guaranteed to change for at least one of these teams. With Elise Biurra and Amelia MacDonald in attack and Eva Buterin the playmaker in midfield, it was Nepean who started the game on the front foot. A shot from distance by MacDonald was well fielded by Chloe McCredie in the Ravens goal, as Ravens started slowly and looked sluggish in the increasingly warm conditions.

Ravens finally sprung into action when striker Jackie Rice won a free kick in a good position on the edge of the area. Midfield star Alessia Rizzuto went for goal, goalkeeper Hope Gittoes blocked and Maya Jones, back from injury, couldn’t keep the shot down. Enterprising play from Ella Moar then freed Jones for a run on goal, but she opted to shoot early and the effort was easily fielded. A lovely move involving Jas Walters, Moar and Rizzuto saw Billie Letsios fire a shot in from distance which was well held. Charlotte Douglas was having a big influence on the game, involved in most of the midfield tussles, and Ravens were pressing hard.

A heart-in-mouth moment then saw Ravens survive. Aurelia Smith’s back header saw McCredie caught in possession and Ravens couldn’t clear their lines. The Ravens shot-stopper atoned with a fabulous block to keep the scores level. She was alert again to a MacDonald effort that fizzed across the surface, and the Ravens central defence of Smith and Ava Pirozzi, and midfield enforcer Sienna Bell, were kept very busy as the half approached its conclusion. The final action of the half saw Rice feed Letsios, whose control was excellent, but the shot was again well saved.

The second half started in emphatic fashion for the hosts. After Pirozzi was upended when embarking on one of her trademark runs from defence, the play was camped in the Nepean half. A free kick was awarded up the Ravens left which Rizzuto teased in, Moar eventually firing over from the edge of the six yard box, and when Moar battled to win the ball in the midfield, Rizzuto’s delicate ball through found Letsios but the shot was blocked for a corner. Rizzuto’s centre caused chaos and two Nepean defenders went for it, the ball eventually deflecting off the unfortunate D’Sena’s leg and into the net for a scrappy opening goal.

Ravens almost added a second goal soon after, Annika Lee’s shot deceiving Gittoes, who had to palm the ball wide as it bounced over her. It was one-way traffic, and when Gittoes presented the ball straight to Rice, the crowd watched on expectantly as the shot just went past the post. Ravens might have rued the missed opportunities, and when McCredie over hit a goal kick to Pirozzi, Nepean had a chance but MacDonald could only fire high and wildly wide, the ball going out for a throw in on the far side. Up the other end, Sophie Steel was having a busy game down the right, racing on to a ball from the excellent Stef Lakic, and she turned Amalija Meissel inside the area in a move that left her opponent on the floor needing treatment.

Buterin raced through to set alarm bells ringing in the Ravens defence, her shot eventually blocked, before a controversial moment saw Letsios beat her defender but her shirt held and a free-kick rightly awarded. The lack of yellow cards in the referee’s pocket saved the Nepean defender. The free kick was wasted by Jones, firing straight into the wall.

The final ten minutes of the game were as nervous as Ravens had endured this season. Ysobel Chalice shaped to shoot from the edge of the area but her shot was well wide, then from the goal kick, McCredie again short-changed Pirozzi who did well to get a foot in as the shot was lifted over the bar. A shot from distance by Alexandra Capararo was then well fielded by McCredie as Ravens hung on. The relief was obvious from the Ravens players at the final whistle; this really had been a scrap and they were fortunate to have weathered the storm in the final moments as the finger hovered over the self-destruct button. Emotional scenes at full time too as former team mates hugged, a host of former Ravens coaches also seen on the touchline.

This was a return to winning ways for Ravens, who had endured a torrid run of games. They now have to take this win and up their game to 100% as they face free-scoring table-toppers Northbridge Bulls on Sunday. For Nepean, they will take heart from this performance, knowing that with luck on their side, they could have snatched something from the game on another day. They have a home game with Mt Druitt Town Rangers next up, and should be able to convert today’s performance into points.

Many thanks to expert photographer Matt. And well done Simon for stepping in as last-minute referee for this one.

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