The race for the finals really heated up over the weekend after a couple of surprise results. Cromer Park was the venue for our featured game as ninth placed Manly United hosted third placed Northern Tigers.
Match of the Round: Manly United v Northern Tigers
It’s been a rebuilding year for Manly following their recent successes, which include trips to the finals in each of the last four seasons and a Grand Final victory in 2017. On the other hand, the Tigers are enjoying their best campaign at this level since they were promoted to NPL 1 in 2016.
Spectators at Cromer Park would witness an intriguing battle, Northern Tigers winning 1-0 after Emma Watkins netted her first goal of the season.
There was plenty of early action, and Manly centre back Ally Green had to make a crucial tackle on Tigers winger Aimee Philips inside the opening 20 seconds.
Chances at both ends followed. Claudia Cholakian could have scored for the hosts on six minutes when she capitalised on a defensive error, but she couldn’t keep the shot down. Northern Tigers forced a quick turnover a few minutes later, and Malia Steinmetz released Daisy Arrowsmith, who was denied by Manly goalkeeper Nicole Simonsen.
High pressing was the order of the day for the away side as they looked to press high up the pitch, especially from goal kicks. Eliza Campbell’s proficiency as a sweeper-keeper helped with this approach, as it enabled the Tigers to maintain a high defensive line. In contrast, Manly sat deeper, allowing the Tigers centre backs to have time on the ball.
In the 18th minute, there was a lengthy stoppage following a frightening collision between Tigers centre back Servet Uzunlar and United winger Emily Minett. Both players would require heavy bandaging to continue, and it got worse for Minett as she was booked for her role in the incident.
The stoppage seemed to disrupt the Tigers’ momentum, and soon after play restarted Manly almost took the lead, but Emma Smith’s mishit clearance rebounded off the crossbar.
Northern Tigers would regain control, and Phillips forced a good save from Simonsen on the half hour mark, before Hannah McNulty got on the end of a swift counter attack in the 41st minute, blazing the ball over the crossbar.
The Tigers wouldn’t have to wait much longer as they took the lead during the next passage of play, and it was a goal that summed up how aggressive they were when Manly had the ball in their own defensive third. Watkins, a defensive midfielder, pushed high up the pitch and pounced on Jane Vanzino’s weak backpass, making no mistake with the one on one chance to put her side in front.
The home side responded well to going behind, and nearly equalised in first half stoppage time. Minett and Hannah Peric kept the ball alive after United captain Chloe O’Brien’s right wing cross, but Cholakian sidefooted straight at Campbell.
Manly used a more attacking approach for the second half, and O’Brien was increasingly adventurous, making a lot of forward runs from midfield. The game began to open up, and Arrowsmith had a couple of efforts blocked by Green and Patricia Charalambous.
In the 61st minute, Peric made the most of Simonsen’s long kick to find Cholakian, but her shot sailed over. A couple of minutes later, Phillips had a fantastic chance to double her side’s lead when she got on the end of Uzunlar’s chipped pass, however she couldn’t hit the target.
While the Tigers continued to press high until the end of the contest, they would take less risks with the ball in the final 20 minutes. Manly coach Chris Williams responded by bringing on Ruby Jackson to play in the centre of defence, allowing Green to move to the left wing.
However, United were still unable to penetrate the Tigers defence, and Campbell’s goal was rarely threatened, except for a Sophie Nenadovic 30 yard effort which flashed wide of the Tigers goal in the 79th minute.
The Tigers would hold on to keep their ninth clean sheet of the year, and credit must go to Uzunlar, who played in the centre of defence for over an hour with a bandaged face.
There was one last chance for Manly in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Watkins handled the ball 25 yards from goal. Green took over the set piece, shooting inches wide of the post.
The result means that Northern Tigers move up a spot to second, two points off league leaders Sydney University. Manly remain in ninth, and will have a Sunday evening away game against NWS Koalas next weekend, while the Tigers host bottom side North Shore Mariners.
Manly United 0
Northern Tigers 1 (Emma Watkins 41’)
Manly United: Nicole Simonsen, Bryany Parker (Nicole Stuart 51’), Ally Green, Corinne Winkler, Patricia Charalambous, Jane Vanzino (Caitlin Jarvie 60’), Chloe O’Brien (c), Sophie Nenadovic, Emily Minett (Sunny Franco 70’), Hannah Peric, Claudia Cholakian (Ruby Jackson 77’)
Yellow cards: Emily Minett 23’, Patricia Charalambous 69’
Northern Tigers: Eliza Campbell, Erica Di Sciascio, Emma Smith, Servet Uzunlar (c), Josie Wilson, Emma Watkins, Malia Steinmetz, Beth Bernardi, Hannah McNulty (Isabella Foletta 84’), Daisy Arrowsmith, Aimee Phillips
Yellow cards: Erica Di Sciascio 43’, Emma Watkins 45+4’
Around the Grounds
Blacktown Spartans 0 – 2 Emerging Jets
Football NSW Institute 1 – 1 Bankstown City
Macarthur Rams 0 – 1 NWS Koalas
Sydney Olympic 0 – 4 Illawarra Stingrays
Sydney University 4 – 0 North Shore Mariners
|10||Football NSW Institute||16||5||1||10||22||40||-18||16|
|12||North Shore Mariners||16||1||0||15||16||61||-45||3|