The grand final rematch between Merewether and Warners Bay was billed as a clash of two Herald Women’s Premier League titans, and the contest at Myamblah Oval certainly delivered, for fans at the field or tuning in live online via BarTV Sports.
The mouthwatering Round 6 matchup coughed up another seven-goal thriller for the second time in as many meetings, and again it was United who walked away with the spoils.
Warners Bay struck first away from home, however, with Nadja Squires converting a penalty kick early in the clash to give the Panthers the lead.
It wasn’t to last long, as a penalty the other way was sent into the back of Warners Bay’s net by Rhali Dobson to level the scores. Dobson struck again just minutes later, stretching out to poke her second home and put the Llamas in the lead.
Ellie Withers was the next on the scoresheet, putting space between the home side and the Panthers with a clinical finish off a long cross from the flank. The two-goal gap stood for mere moments, however, as Tara Pender struck back seconds later to send the Panthers into the sheds just one behind at 3-2.
The second half was slower in terms of goals, as both squads traded major blows just once. Merewether extended their lead to 4-2 with a squared shot from Courtney Anderson, before Cassidy Davis beat two in the box to curl it into the top right corner.
Davis’ stellar effort was the last goal of the match, but not through lack of trying – the Panthers continued to knock on the door in the second half, hunting the leveller. Notably, a long-range effort from Squires nearly broke open the clash, rattling the crossbar before landing inches away from the line in the mouth of Merewether’s goal.
It wasn’t to be for the travelling Panthers, however, as an all-too-familiar scoreline sent them packing from Myamblah Oval with no points in Round 6.
The 4-3 scoreline may have entertained onlookers, but for Merewether coach Cass Koppen it was “stressful” to say the least.
“It was a brilliant game, a great advertisement for the women’s game, with seven high-quality goals in an end-to-end match,” she said.
“For us, this is what we’ve been missing from the first five weeks of the competition. We spoke before the game about finding that spark again and playing for each other and the badge, and we got the results in tough conditions.
“Our main message ahead of the Warners Bay game was that it was a tipping point in our season and we couldn’t look for excuses. We want to be a top side in the competition so we have to deal with adversity – injuries, changes, or anything else – and we needed to show we belong near the top of the table instead of fighting for finals spots.”
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While player-coach Davis did agree that it was fantastic BarTV Sports were streaming the WPL fixture and believes it’s “great to see the support for the game”, the Panthers captain said she was “quite disappointed” to come up against a strategy of “long balls” in the clash.
“It’s hard to play against a team that’s kicking from their keeper to their striker, and wasting time with half a game to go,” the W-League star said after the match.
“I felt it was a little disrespectful, considering we’re striving to be a premier competition. I just said to the girls at half time to keep their heads up and gave them a bit of a rev-up so that we could come out in the second firing.
“We were way better in the second half, and fixed those small things that we were looking to improve, but it was an ugly game that descended into a lot of long balls. It was a bit scrappy and hard to play when every chance coming against you is just hopeful and long.”
The 4-3 result draws Merewether level with their grand final rivals, with both squads having collected four wins and 12 points in their campaigns thus far.
Elsewhere on Sunday afternoon, New Lambton made a great escape against South Wallsend in another high-profile clash.
If ever there was a reason to have more than one BarTV Sports live stream per week, it may have been the match between New Lambton and South Wallsend.
Complete with a hat-trick from Lauren Allan, fast-paced football from a hungry Wolves outfit, and a dramatic late comeback for the league leaders, Alder Park played host to another instant classic for the 2019 season.
For those watching on at the Eagles’ nest, it seemed as if South Wallsend had done what none other could do thus far this season – deliver a loss to Keelan Hamilton’s high-flying team.
With a strategy weeks in the making, Cas Wright and the Southy squad had come to Alder Park and claimed an ascendant 3-1 lead heading into the final twenty minutes.
Ashlee Brodigan had struck twice for the Wolves, while Lauren Allan had netted one ahead of the break. Maryjane Mason had doubled the goal lead again for the travelling side, and three goals were beginning to look like three points for South Wallsend.
Then New Lambton switched the script on its head, as Allan peppered two more late on in the second half, including one just ten minutes out from the final whistle, to see the clash level at 3-3. Then Tara Andrews closed out the match with a rocketing left-footed cracker in the dying seconds of the match to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
Finally, Wallsend made the long away trip to Wauchope to face Football Mid North Coast and walked away with all three points.
The Red Devils stormed Fairmont Gardens, led by Alesha Clifford as she claimed a brace for the victorious side, and notched up a 4-0 win over the home team to “prove last week’s win wasn’t a one-off”.
Clifford wasn’t the only one to get on the scoresheet in Wauchope for Wallsend, as Laura Hall and Libby Copus-Brown both scored for the away side.
The win moves Wallsend into fourth place, leapfrogging local rivals South Wallsend. Mid North Coast drop the other way, remaining three points adrift of a finals position.
The final contest at Thornton Park between Adamstown and the Redbacks was delayed due to pitch conditions following rain on Sunday.
STANDINGS: New Lambton (18), Warners Bay, Merewether (12), Wallsend, South Wallsend (9), Mid North Coast (6), Adamstown, Thornton (0).
First published as “Herald WPL Round 6 Review” by Northern NSW Football.