With 24 goals in six games, it was certainly another action-packed day in Round 9 of the NSW NPL competition. A top four clash was our Match of the Round this week, with second-placed Northern Tigers hosting fourth-placed Illawarra Stingrays at North Turramurra Recreation Area.
Northern Tigers have been one of the surprises of the season so far, and they were on an impressive seven match unbeaten run going into this game. On the other hand, the Stingrays were looking to regain some form after two consecutive losses.
In the end, it was Illawarra who would be triumphant, winning 2-0 after strikes from Michelle Carney and Kahlia Hogg.
Hogg was involved in all the key moments for the Stingrays early on, and in the fourth minute she picked out Carney from a corner, with the striker’s header saved by Tigers goalkeeper Eliza Campbell.
A few minutes later, Hogg had a chance of her own after pouncing on a clearance, shooting just over the crossbar.
Chloe Middleton then began to impose herself on the contest, and she found Hogg in space, with her effort flying inches wide of the far post.
After the early pressure, it was no surprise to see the Stingrays take the lead. Blaize Kendis was the architect, intercepting the ball and playing a pinpoint pass through the defence for Carney, who lobbed Campbell expertly.
The Tigers looked to respond, and their captain Ellie Brush was keen to make forward runs from centre-back whenever she gained possession.
One such run saw her exchange passes with New Zealand international Aimee Phillips before speeding past Talitha Kramer down the left, but the cross was too close to Stingrays goalkeeper Trudy Burke.
With half an hour played, there were big chances at both ends. First, Middleton raced down the left flank, playing a pinpoint cross for Eden Stoddard, but she fired wide.
A minute later, a beautiful dummy from Tigers forward Daisy Arrowsmith released Maddie Bart, but she was unable to hit the target.
Illawarra were finding joy in wide areas, with Erica Halloway whipping in some dangerous crosses from the right wing.
On the other side, Middleton, playing away from her usual central midfield position, had a good game on the left flank. She nearly made it 2-0 in the closing stages of the first half after beating a defender and surging into the area, but her shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Despite needing to make two substitutions early in the second half, Illawarra remained the likelier of the two teams to score.
Hogg once again showed her prowess from set pieces, finding Kramer with a precise corner kick, but Kramer was unable to keep her header down.
The disappointment from the miss would be short-lived, as Hogg grabbed a deserved goal a couple of minutes later, collecting an errant pass on the edge of the penalty area and sending a lovely shot into the top corner.
With a two goal lead, Illawarra were happy to sit back and let the Tigers have possession. Credit must go to the Stingrays backline, and in particular the centre-back duo of Caitlin Cooper and Danika Matos, for keeping Tigers sharpshooter Daisy Arrowsmith quiet.
However, there were some close calls at the back for the Stingrays, and Burke had to rush off her line quickly to deal with an under-hit back-pass from Kramer.
Burke stayed alert, and in the 78th minute she did well to deal with a dangerous cross from Michelle Brown, pushing the ball wide for a corner.
After handling this spell of Tigers pressure, Illawarra reacted, almost grabbing a third goal. Halloway beat the defence to a ball over the top, with her shot hitting the underside of the crossbar before being collected by Campbell.
With time running out, the Tigers made one last roll of the dice, moving Ellie Brush into an advanced midfield position.
The change almost paid off in stoppage time after Brush got on the end of a cross from Tigers substitute Hannah McNulty, but Burke was able to tip the looping header onto the post and gather the ball before it crossed the goal line.
This result sees Northern Tigers drop to third, with superior goal difference keeping them ahead of Illawarra, who stay in fourth.
Both teams have away trips next weekend, with Tigers travelling to Peter Moore Field to face league leaders Sydney Olympic, while Stingrays play Football NSW Institute at Valentine Sports Park.
Northern Tigers 0
Illawarra Stingrays 2 (Michelle Carney 16’, Kahlia Hogg 58’)
Northern Tigers: Eliza Campbell, Isabella Foletta (Amanda Skellern 83’), Ellie Brush (c), Emma Smith, Josie Wilson, Michelle Brown, Malia Steinmetz, Emma Watkins (Erica Di Sciascio 89’), Maddie Bart (Hannah McNulty 76’), Daisy Arrowsmith, Aimee Phillips
Unused substitutes: Danielle Bartels, Saba Murray
Illawarra Stingrays: Trudy Burke, Blaize Kendis, Danika Matos, Caitlin Cooper, Talitha Kramer, Sarah Johnston, Kahlia Hogg, Eden Stoddard (Lucy Nolan 53’), Erica Halloway, Michelle Carney (c) (Kaelah Austin 46’), Chloe Middleton
Unused substitutes: Kya Stewart, Jasmine Limon, Anastasia Grozdanov
Around the Grounds
Bankstown City 1 – 4 Blacktown Spartans
Emerging Jets 0 – 5 Sydney Olympic
Football NSW Institute 1 – 2 NWS Koalas
Macarthur Rams 4 – 2 North Shore Mariners
Sydney University 2 – 1 Manly United
|8||Football NSW Institute||9||4||0||5||16||16||0||12|
|12||North Shore Mariners||9||1||0||8||11||40||-29||3|