Ravens holiday no-show

Gladesville Ravens 0 Illawarra Stingrays 4

It was anything but a joyful Easter for the Gladesville Ravens Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 2 team on Sunday as they crumbled to their third straight home defeat of the season. Illawarra Stingrays took command in the first half with Brooklyn Hudson scoring from distance, and any hopes of getting back into the game after half time were in tatters as Hudson and then Sienna Graham scored within five minutes of the restart. There were moments of respite as Ravens searched for meaningful possession at the other end of the field, but the sparkling Hudson completed a devastating hat-trick as full-time approached and Ravens had been given another footballing lesson at the home of football, Christie Park.

A fierce wind on an otherwise warm autumn day had died down just as the game got underway, the decision to change ends by the Stingrays captain perhaps ill-advised. Gladesville Ravens would be up against a team who had started the season very well, and the visitors’ central defence of Jayde Johnson and Daniella Naccari would be a very difficult wall to overcome. Feeling each other out and getting used to the conditions for the first few moments, the game suddenly sprung to life as Hudson raced through onto a weighted through ball. Ravens keeper Jemma Horley had read the situation though, sending the Stingrays attacker into the air with her brave challenge. Lara Green then marshalled her attacker very well to clear and Ravens knew straight away that they were in for a tough day.

Sylvie Karena, fresh from her midweek brace against Bankstown, was full of running, and she played in Sienna Bell down the Ravens right who did well to test her marker. Alessia Rizzuto then played Bell in again and the home team started to get some momentum shooting into the wind. A glorious move involving Green, Karena and Alexia Mavraidis than saw Karena shoot on the turn, but the shot lacked power and goalkeeper Sophie Bailey gathered easily.

Up the other end, Maya Page and Hudson combined for Emily Cumming to strike just over the bar, and the Ravens defence was looking a little stand-offish as the lively Hudson continued to use her pace to good effect.

When Rizzuto found herself on the by-line down the Ravens right, a great turn saw her lift in a cross that was cleared. Anika Watson controlled and whipped in a dangerous cross that was cleared for a corner and the home team looked hungry. The corners, despite being delivered into dangerous areas, continued to lack any conviction from the attacking players and Stingrays cleared their lines with ease.

Ravens were building from the back, but Rizzuto played a blind pass which was intercepted. All of a sudden the defence was back-pedalling, and Hudson took the ball in her stride, advanced, and smashed a delightful shot around Horley and into the net, the goalkeeper given no chance with the precision finish. It was cruel on the Ravens, who had given a good account of themselves, but showed that they couldn’t squander possession in such situations.

Karena then battled well to get a cross in from the right that just went past the post, and at the other end Horley got down quickly to save from Scarlett Downer. A free kick was awarded for handball, Rizzuto adjudged to have played at the ball with her arm, and Ava Pirozzi had to be quick to intercept the cross, heading behind for a corner. Pirozzi again rescued the Ravens defence as the long clearance from Bailey bounced through, the strong Ravens’ defender outmuscling Hudson to keep the ball away from Horley’s goal.

A quick throw-in from Sinead Fisher then allowed Rizzuto to swing in a cross which found the side-netting, and Fisher was the source of good work going forward that saw Jones go one-on-one with her defender. Isla Giron then launched a long ball forward and Ravens pressured the Stingrays into coughing up a corner. Stef Lakic had a shot blocked on the edge of the area and the counter-attack was on, Aurelia Smith racing back to deal with the danger.

When Hudson rolled the ball to Mikayla Gulabovski soon after, she struck from outside the area, and Horley reacted to the swirling shot by pushing the ball onto the bar and over. Naccari then fired in a shot from the edge of the area and Horley was down quickly, gathering the ball at the second attempt. The half ended with Ravens back on the attack, Mavraidis playing in Zoe Twining for a cross that was easily fielded by Bailey.

So, Ravens one-down at the break, and coach Dali McDonald led his team into the changing rooms to make plans for a comeback in the second half. With the wind returning, the stiff breeze would be at their backs, but could they use it to their advantage?

That question was answered within moments of the restart. Hudson raced on to a through ball as the Ravens offside trap malfunctioned, and with Horley racing out of goal with little chance of making the challenge, Hudson waltzed around her, steadied herself and then beat Smith on the goal line who was unlucky not to get a foot to the ball as it fizzed into the net. It wasn’t long before Hudson found herself in space up the left. She took the ball through and shot, Horley made a great save to deny the hat-trick, but Graham was at the far post and had all the time in the world to finish, the score all of a sudden blowing out to 3-0 with the Ravens defence all at sea.

Ravens had to react. They had been completely overrun by Hudson. Mavraidis then cut inside down the left and swept a ball to the other side of the field for Bell to advance, and her cross/shot was well saved by Bailey with Jones having anticipated the rebound. A goal here and Ravens could well get the confidence to make a game of it. Mavraidis raced down the left and crossed for Bell on the right whose shot was cleared. Then Fisher teased in a ball for Jones, who beat the offside trap but not the bounce, and Bailey gathered easily. It just wasn’t happening in front of goal.

Janaya Baroudi then advanced and smashed a shot just over the Ravens’ bar, while back at the other end, Jones battled well through two challenges, but her shot was tame. Angelina Zaiter then pulled the shirt of her opponent right in front of the referee, Baroudi’s retaliatory shove meaning that she would join Zaiter in the book as the game threatened to boil over. A corner from the Stingrays right was held up as the referee lectured both teams, Pirozzi using her strength to hold off the jostling forward and clear the ball away.

Horley then watched a shot from Ava Byrom go just past the post, Hudson fed Sophie Chew who raced in on goal, but Horley was quick to react and clear the ball on the edge of her area. Back at the National Park end, and a possible handball was waved away as Rizzuto got into an advanced area, but her square ball for Jones was hacked away.

A moment that summed up Ravens’ day then saw Pirozzi quickly across to cut out a through ball, but the ball squirmed away from her. Hudson picked up the ball, Lakic couldn’t prevent her from getting into the area and easing past Horley to complete an impressive hat-trick and condemn Ravens to another heavy home loss. Horley then had to save from distance to prevent a fifth, before Ravens finally went on the attack, Jones winning a corner. Rizzuto lifted in the corner, but Watson’s header lacked direction and the ball was easily cleared.

The final whistle was met with cheers from the Illawarra bench, the Ravens were stony-faced and reeling from a disastrous second half that could have ended in a heavier defeat. Three games at Christie Park, two goals scored and fourteen conceded is not up to the standards required to compete at this level. A first half that saw Ravens threaten and look good at times was counteracted by a frail second half and a disappointing result that will have alarm bells ringing in the Ravens camp.

Next weekend Gladesville Ravens travel to Macarthur Rams, the teams separated by a single goal in the ladder, while Illawarra Stingrays host Bankstown City Lions on Friday night before travelling to face the Bulls on Sunday. Will we see a reaction from Ravens after this dismantling today? Stay tuned!

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