Round 18 of the NSW NPL competition produced some very tight contests, and only 12 goals were scored across the six games. A few of those games could end up being crucial in deciding which teams make the finals, none more so than our featured match between Blacktown Spartans and NWS Koalas.
Match of the Round: Blacktown Spartans v NWS Koalas
Blacktown Spartans started the weekend in fifth place, hoping to build some momentum. David Saliba’s side had ended a four game winless streak in the previous round courtesy of a 3-0 victory over Football NSW Institute.
On the other hand, NWS Koalas were in must-win territory. They had a four point gap to the top five and only five matches left to catch up.
An even contest at Blacktown Football Park ended with a 1-0 win for the Spartans, who registered their second home victory in two weeks thanks to a late strike from Bethany Gordon.
The Spartans lined up in what has become their usual formation, a 4-4-2 featuring a “diamond” shape in midfield. Kristy Rohrer played at the base of their midfield quartet, while Olivia Price was in the playmaker role behind the strike partnership of Ashlie Crofts and Linda Dudek.
Although the Koalas began in their customary 4-3-3 formation, they had a somewhat makeshift backline. Central midfielder Deborah-Anne de la Harpe was moved to right back, and Ariella Cabezas (normally a forward) played at left back. In attack, the away side had a pacey front three – Princess Ibini, Sophie Harding and Morgan Roberts.
The Koalas had the better of play early on, Natalie Tobin, Ibini and Harding all trying their luck from long range.
However, the hosts would soon get into the contest. Koalas shotstopper Romina Parraguirre was called upon twice, saving from Gordon on the quarter hour, and diving bravely at Tanya Borazio’s feet on 22 minutes.
Both teams continued to look for an opening goal, and soon afterwards Amy Sayer snuck a pass behind the Spartans defence for Morgan Roberts, but Hannah Bourke made an excellent last ditch challenge to deny her.
Sayer then had a chance just before the half hour following a neat pass from de la Harpe, and her first time strike curled wide of the target.
As expected, Ibini was a real handful with her off the ball movement and willingness to run at opponents. The forward drew a couple of fouls in quick succession, one of them resulting in a booking for Rohrer.
Chances dried up as the first half drew to a close, although in first half stoppage time Price dinked a ball over the top for Dudek, Parraguirre rushing out quickly to prevent the forward getting a chance.
At halftime, Koalas coach Jaime Gomez made a change as midfielder Emma Stanbury replaced defender Erin Pridmore. There was also a formation switch to a 3-4-3, putting the away side in a better position to cover the Spartans’ midfield quartet.
However, this change initially appeared to unsettle the Koalas. In the 49th minute, Crofts raced past the defence when Dudek set her up, sending the ball across the face of goal.
Crofts had another great chance on 56 minutes after a long range Alix Roberts free kick wasn’t cleared, but she couldn’t keep her shot down.
Midway through the second half, Spartans goalkeeper Casey Dumont was needed twice in a minute. First, she got her angles right as Morgan Roberts got behind the defence, then she reacted well when Harding’s left wing cross was met by Stanbury.
In the 73rd minute, the home side countered. Dudek played a lovely reverse ball for Crofts, who outpaced the defence but couldn’t generate enough power to trouble Parraguirre.
Just under ten minutes were remaining when Price ran from the centre circle, evaded a defender and got into the area, however her effort was blocked by Tiana Jaber.
The Spartans would finally break the deadlock in the 83rd minute. Alix Roberts and Price combined to find Dudek, who put Price in the clear after a lovely back-heel. Parraguirre made an excellent one on one save, but the Koalas were unable to clear the danger, allowing Borazio to play the ball back to Gordon. The finish was exquisite, Gordon’s 25 yard chip sailing over the crowd and into the net.
Jaime Gomez’s team did have a late chance as Harding found Stanbury in the area, but the ball was poked wide of the goal, and the hosts saw out the rest of the match.
The victory gives the Spartans a huge lift as David Saliba’s side look to play finals football for the first time since 2015 – they’re now six points ahead of Macarthur Rams, the team in sixth place. The Koalas are one point and one place behind Macarthur, and they look unlikely to make the postseason.
Next weekend, Blacktown Spartans travel to the South Coast to face Illawarra Stingrays at JJ Kelly Park, while NWS Koalas return to Christie Park for a Sunday night home fixture against North Shore Mariners.
Blacktown Spartans 1 (Bethany Gordon 83’)
NWS Koalas 0
Blacktown Spartans: Casey Dumont, Alix Roberts (c), Keisha Allen, Hannah Bourke, Tanya Borazio, Kristy Rohrer, Annabelle Daczko, Bethany Gordon, Olivia Price, Ashlie Crofts (Tiarne Flavin 78’), Linda Dudek (Natalie Vukovic 89’)
Unused substitutes: Regan Hill, Tiarna Barton
Yellow cards: Kristy Rohrer 32’
NWS Koalas: Romina Parraguirre, Deborah-Anne de la Harpe (Kimberley Davey 62’), Tiana Jaber, Erin Pridmore (Emma Stanbury 46’), Ariella Cabezas, Natalie Tobin (c), Annika Clayton (Siahn Bozanic 71’), Amy Sayer, Morgan Roberts, Princess Ibini, Sophie Harding (Kiara Farquhar 88’)
Unused substitutes: Brianna Edwards
Yellow cards: Tiana Jaber 56’, Natalie Tobin 84’
Around the Grounds
Macarthur Rams 0 – 2 Sydney University
Illawarra Stingrays 0 – 0 Manly United
North Shore Mariners 1 – 2 Football NSW Institute
Northern Tigers 2 – 1 Emerging Jets
Sydney Olympic 2 – 1 Bankstown City
|1||Sydney University SFC||18||12||5||1||43||11||32||41|
|2||Northern Tigers FC||18||12||3||3||35||11||24||39|
|3||Sydney Olympic FC||18||11||3||4||49||27||22||36|
|5||Blacktown Spartans FC||18||10||2||6||32||26||6||32|
|6||Macarthur Rams Womens FC||18||8||2||8||38||38||0||26|
|7||NWS Koalas FC||18||6||7||5||30||24||6||25|
|8||Bankstown City FC||18||6||2||10||32||44||-12||20|
|9||Football NSW Institute||18||6||1||11||24||44||-20||19|
|10||Manly United FC||18||5||3||10||27||31||-4||18|
|12||North Shore Mariners FC||18||1||0||17||17||69||-52||3|