Gladesville Ravens’ impressive unbeaten run continued after this slender victory over basement club Camden Tigers at Rone Dine Park on Sunday. For a team that has shipped almost 200 goals this season, the home team’s valiant efforts were not enough to achieve their first point of the season despite holding the Girls Youth League Under 15 Division 2’s form team for most of the match. A solitary second-half strike from Stef Lakic, a cracking effort from inside the box, was enough to take the points back to Gladesville in a tense Fathers’ Day encounter.
A full-strength Ravens arrived in Camden for this Sunday morning fixture on the back of a five-game winning streak, looking to grab the necessary points to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Ron Dine Memorial Reserve was picture perfect if not a little bumpy, the barbecue was cranked and the breezy morning threatened rain but never really delivered. Stacey Ellis lined up in goal for Camden in search of a first clean sheet, and her two central defenders Lucia Di Losa-Bevan and Abbey Refferty knew they would be in for a big game.
Ravens started strongest, Ella Moar lifting in a cross for Marli Williams with the first move of the game, and Jackie Rice fed top scorer Maya Jones but she was closed down well. The pattern had already formed, with the wide players seeing a lot of the ball. Williams fed Jones who turned sweetly past her marker to advance on goal, but the shot was just wide. Moar then crossed for Rice, who volleyed wide with a good effort and Williams had the best chance of the half, connecting to a cross with a crisp shot that Ellis saved, and drilled in the rebound which the Camden keeper again did well to smother.
Rice and Jones both tested Ellis from distance before coach Stephen Bott decided to shake things up and throw on all of his subs. Immediately the Ravens stepped up a gear, Charlotte Douglas shot from distance forcing Ellis to save with her legs, before Camden finally had some respite, Ava Pirozzi doing well to intercept and concede a corner. Unfortunately the corner kick was fired behind the goal and Ravens were allowed straight back on the attack.
Captain Alessia Rizzuto made space on the right to cross well to the near post for Douglas, but again Ellis intervened, then Jones tricked her way along the byline and fired over. The full backs were roaring forward too, and Lakic swung in a corner to Annika Lee, but her shot was smashed wide for the final act of an exciting yet frustrating first half. The scoreboard did not reflect the balance of play, but Ravens have found goals hard to come by this season, so it was not entirely a surprise.
A change of goalkeepers at the break saw Ellis replaced by Natalya Robertson, while Ravens reshuffled and threw their pacy full backs forward, Lakic and Tahlia Butcher given wide roles to run at their players and provide the crosses. The stiff wind now in their favour, the visitors poured forward.
A free kick on the edge of the area for handball early in the half, where the referee waved away protests that it was in the area, saw Rizzuto fire in a shot to test the new keeper, Robertson saving easily and showing the ball to the Ravens players as if to suggest she would not be beaten. Lakic fired in a good cross that Robertson handled, and she was perfecting the Jordan Pickford game management tactic right from the word go.
Zara Crocker managed to get the ball wedged between her knees in a moment that provided comedy relief for everybody before Butcher raced down the left and crossed to the near post, Robertson grateful to smother the ball. Lakic then turned majestically on the wing to fire in a cross for Jones who shot just wide as the chances came and went.
It would take something special to beat the Camden keeper; Jas Waters lifted a ball in to Rizzuto who battled well to get the ball to Jones. Her persistence saw the ball squeeze out to Lakic who showed cool composure and fabulous feet to shimmy her way past her defender, onto her right foot and she slammed the ball home from 12 yards past Robertson for a classy goal.
Ravens were motoring now, Moar was the next to fire in a shot that was just wide. Rizzuto then fouled her player to give away a free kick centrally. Madelynn Rhodes lifted in a clever free kick, but the header was way off target with Chloe McCredie watching the ball wide, Camden’s best chance and a reminder that the Ravens would not have it easy.
When Sophie Steele played a clever one-two with Lee, she ended up on the floor in obvious agony, a potential coming together with the defender. In fact she had turned her ankle badly, the photos don’t lie, and was carried off by physio Caitlin, play stopped for a few minutes, and the stuffing potentially knocked out of the Ravens. The restart provided another legendary comedy moment, Lee racing in to be involved with the drop ball, the referee telling her in no uncertain terms to get out of there.
The whistler indeed was having an angry game. After the non-penalty incident at the start of the half, he was becoming snappy when players questioned his decisions, and the Ravens showed their naivety by getting on the wrong side of the referee. Decisions started going against them.
Good hold-up play by Lee then gave Williams a chance to fire a shot just wide, and Sienna Bell’s long searching cross was misdirected by Williams and a good chance went begging. The busy Lee then fired in a shot that Robertson saved, Butcher racing in for the follow up, but an injury to the Camden keeper again stopped play. A peculiar moment saw the drop ball take place at the other end of the field, Aurelia Smith booming the ball into the Camden penalty area, Lee challenging Robertson and winning another corner.
The industrious Anika Watson then tried her luck, firing in a shot that Robertson was able to save, Moar fired in a shot that again tested the goalkeeper, and Butcher rode a challenge to advance into the area, but her shot was saved too.
A late corner by Rizzuto caused an almighty scramble, Douglas and Lee unable to get the ball on the ground and Smith dinking in a ball that was hacked away, the whistle going before the next corner could be taken.
Ravens had won, coach Stephen Bott was tight-lipped on the manner of the performance, but happy to get a sixth win in a row and incredibly a 14th shut-out for the season. Results elsewhere meant that a swing of epic proportions would be required in goal difference to give the girls from Gladesville any chance of making the top four; finals football will not be an option then, and Ravens will have to be content with a commendable fifth spot on the ladder with one of the meanest defences in this fiercely competitive league.
Camden Tigers play Mt Druitt next week and will be going all out for their first points of the season; on today’s showing, they are not far away from a result and good luck to them. Ravens travel to South East Phoenix next weekend for their end of season trip, and a great way to round off what has been a terrific season.
We end the match report with a few photos from before, during and after the game today that will jog your memory when you read back on this in the future.
Thanks to Matt and Steve for this absolute bumper photo edition. So many photos to choose from!