A quick 17-hour turnaround for the Gladesville Ravens following their Saturday catch-up game, and Lily’s Football Centre was positively tropical in comparison to the previous evening as Ravens continued their impressive 12-game unbeaten run at the expense of Blacktown City. A controversial opening goal from Maya Jones was adjudged to have crossed the line, and that was followed in quick succession by a thumping finish by Charlotte Douglas and a sublime free-kick from captain Alessia Rizzuto as the visitors took advatage of the swirling wind at their backs. Despite having the lion’s share of the chances in the second half, there were no further goals as the heavens threatened to open and Gladesville came away with an important three points leading in to a tricky period of fixtures.
The players switched around before the kick off, suggesting that the visiting team had won the toss and had chosen to run with the wind in the first half. With Lucy Goss continuing to deputise for Chloe McCredie in goal, the only other change from the previous night’s game saw Stef Lakic miss out through illness. City kicked off, but it was Ravens who were straight on the offensive, looking to use their wingers at every opportunity. The game was minutes old when Jones turned smartly on the edge of the area and rifled a shot towards goal. Goalkeeper Maryam Khan couldn’t hold the shot and the ball bounced towards the line, the shocked keeper reaching to claw the ball out from her goal line and away. The sight of the assistant referee running back to half-way and the appeals of the Ravens players confirmed that a goal had been given and Ravens had an early lead.
That sparked Blacktown into action, and Jemma Whalen raced up the right and fed the ball to Montana Sullivan, who hassled enough for the ball to pop out to Ashley Ticehurst, who connected but the shot was blocked. Captain Jasmine Whalen reminded everyone of her free-kick prowess, lifting a long ball into the area which Ravens dealt with. A stray pass across goal in the City defence caught Khan out and Jones pounced, the shot well saved by the young City keeper. Great work by Marli Williams down the right led to a teasing cross which was well smothered by Khan as Ravens looked to stamp their authority on the game, and an Aurelia Smith intercept and through ball was just too far for Jones.
The resulting goal kick was intercepted by Douglas, who controlled well and raced to the edge of the area before powering in a fabulous strike that hit the underside of the bar and bounced into the net. A ruthless finish that was well received by her teammates and Ravens were in command so early in the game.
A sloppy clearance soon after by the Ravens then presented a chance to Kaitlyn Apps, whose shot was straight at Goss, who clutched the ball for a rare moment of action in a dominant opening period for the visiting team. Ravens continued the press, Jones fed Ella Moar who brought a flying save from Khan to win a corner. From Rizzuto’s corner, a flurry of legs and some good battling from Williams saw the ball fall to Jones, who struck a sweet shot past Khan, but the ball cannoned of the post in a thrilling moment. A corner then saw Jones smash in a fierce shot from the edge of the area that was well blocked.
Jackie Rice fought well to bring the ball out of the air soon after and the ball struck the defender’s arm, a free kick in a dangerous position for the visitors. Up stepped Rizzuto and curled a shot over the wall – Khan got her hands to the ball, but the pace of the shot took the ball into the net for a magnificent third goal, and a slightly less magnificent celebration. When Rizzuto released Annika Lee down the right, she did everything right, beating her defender for pace and advancing on goal, but her control let her down and a stretch to keep the ball in saw her limping and ultimately replaced. Sophie Steele then jinked down the right and crossed beautifully acoss the keeper who made a good stop to prevent a fourth goal before the break. There was time for a late free-kick to City, the lively Tahlia Butcher adjudged to have handled, but Whalen’s set piece came to nothing as the whistle blew.
Ravens were playing into the wind for the second half, and the complexion of the game would change. However, the through balls holding up was a blessing and Rizzuto fed a long ball to Jones who opted to shoot early when she had time and space to advance on goal. Williams signalled her intentions, shooting hopefully from 35 yards into Khan’s arms, and Smith fed Jones up the right with a searching ball, the exciting striker turning well and delivering a pacy cross that Douglas only just missed.
A corner from Rizzuto found the head of Smith but the ball wasn’t anywhere near the target, Williams again created space up the right as Ravens pressed, and a brave stooping header from Jones flicked the ball in to the path of Williams whose cross was scrambled away. A wild shot from Tallulah Don-Wakefield and a Butcher foul throw reminded the Ravens that they had to concentrate, and when Anika Watson played in Jones, the tussle with the last man saw her end up on the floor but the referee deemed it legal as City began to ride their luck.
Whalen was left all alone in the middle of the Ravens half soon after, and took the time to shoot. Smith got her foot to the ball to deflect the ball and Ava Pirozzi did well to win the goal kick, Ravens having to remain alert as the game wore on. Sienna Bell was harshly adjudged to have fouled the busy Whalen soon after, but the dangerous free kick was wasted and Ravens could breath again.
Jas Waters was finding herself in advanced positions up the left, and her clever ball to Jones led to a potential one-on-one, but she took a heavy touch and the ball rolled harmlessly into Khan’s arms as the breeze and the presistent drizzle made the going tough playing into the wind.
There could have been more goals in this one. A delicious through ball by Douglas to Jones almost carved apart the City defence, but Jones was forced wide. When the ball eventually came in from Bell, Jones looked to connect with a low header but the presence of Khan was enough to put her off and City survived. There was time for the customary run from defence by Pirozzi as Ravens found room up the left, but the action ended with an injury to a City player and the points had in truth been wrapped up in a fine first half performance by the visitors.
Ravens propelled themselves into 4th place in the ladder, although those around them have games in hand, and a tricky run of fixtures against SD Raiders, St George and Central Coast Mariners will test their credentials for a top four finish in the run in to the end of the season. For City it’s a second trip to Nowra next weekend as they look to convert some pleasing performances into points to propel them up the table.
Well done Ravens for coming through a difficult double-header weekend with six valuable points, two games played in very testing conditions. We look forward to some big games coming up and hopefully some big performances to match. Onwards and upwards!
Thanks to Matt and Steve for their expert camerawork.