Like your favourite sporting films from the early 2000s, Round 8 of the NSW NPLW competition was one for the underdogs with a defeat of a top 4 veteran, two stalemates, and a big scalp from a bottom-two team.
From W-League experience to Matildas caps, the “big teams” of this league are the ones that usually attract the most attention. However, this week’s Match of the Round focused on the next generation of football talent as the Football NSW Institute hosted the Emerging Jets at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.
Having defeated both Northern Tigers and Sydney University in rounds past, many expected this match would be a walk in the park for the Institute. However, it was the Jets who would come out on top after a stellar second-half performance aided by some clever substitutions, taking all three points after a 2-3 win.
The opening minutes of the match were full of drama as the Jets created a great chance in the first 30 seconds, with a short corner rifled across the 6-yard box, but it was too strong for the two players stationed on the back post.
FNSW would respond in kind less than a minute later when Sheridan Gallagher was put through on goal after a quick press forced the Jets into an error, but goalkeeper Susanna Behne-Smith was quick off her line to smother the shot.
That would be the extent of Behne-Smith’s involvement as she clattered into the post while saving a shot from FNSW’s Aideen Keane on the back post a few minutes later, eventually being replaced by reserve keeper Tiahna Robertson.
Robertson had her first big test ten minutes later when her poor clearance was picked up by FNSW striker Charlie Rule; Rule’s shot was on target but Robertson made an excellent diving save to keep the ball out.
Predictably, it was FNSW who began to assert themselves in the opening fifteen minutes, controlling majority of possession, staying patient with their probing passes forward, and forcing the Jets to defend deep and send hopeful long balls up-field. Darcey Malone and her midfield team-mate Isabel Gomez were particularly strong on the ball, working in combinations and rotating well to maintain FNSW’s central triangle.
Although the Jets only had one shot in the opening 20 minutes, they would be the first on the scoresheet after springing a counter-attack. Following a slicing pass between FNSW’s right-sided defenders, Kiarnie Latham found herself in space down the left side, sending a looping shot-cross from outside the box over the outstretched arms of FNSW keeper Emilija Vidakovic. 0-1 to the visitors.
FNSW were close to equalising in the 25th minute after winger Aideen Keane dispossessed Jets right-back Kirsty Fenton and was through on goal, but her shot was straight at Robertson. Gallagher would have a go from 30 yards out five minutes later, but it sailed over the crossbar.
It was around the half-hour mark that the Jets would find their groove, pressing FNSW’s midfielders and cutting off passing channels in behind their own defensive line. Much of the remaining first half was played in the central third of the field as both teams scrapped and struggled for the ball, trying to maintain possession. However, both were equal to the task of closing each other down and forcing long balls that were easily collected by their respective goalkeepers. It was an impressive and disciplined performance from the Jets defenders in particular, restricting FNSW’s most dangerous players to shots from well outside the area.
The second half began where the first half left off, with both teams pressuring each other into making errors and dispossessing one another, but the perfect final ball from both sides was often missing. FNSW would try to rectify this in the 50th minute when Gallagher made an excellent dribble down the left and into the box, but her cut-back from the by-line was just intercepted by a stretching Jets defender.
Gallagher didn’t know much about her next chance five minutes later after being sent through one-on-one with Robertson, only for Robertson’s clearance to come back off Gallagher’s torso – but the deflected ball flew wide of the post.
The young striker would make up for this missed opportunity by equalising in spectacular fashion in the 62nd minute, sending a 30-yard free kick over the fingertips of the leaping Robertson and into the net. 1-1.
Less than ten minutes later, the FNSW would take the lead after Scarlet Thomas was brought down in the area. Gomez stepped up and lashed the ball home to make it 2-1.
From the 70th minute, the Jets would begin to send several waves of counter-attacks at the FNSW defence. Substitute Te Reremoana Walker was exactly what the Jets needed, bringing pace and energy into the central midfield and swinging the match in her team’s favour, particularly after the substitution of Malone. Walker was in the thick of the action almost immediately, sending a lovely through-ball in behind for Bronte Peel, but Peel’s cross into the box was intercepted by the onrushing Robertson.
The Jets would equalise in the 76th minute following this short but intense period of pressure which saw Walker working hard to dispossess FNSW’s midfielders and intercept passes to their front three. After a FNSW goal kick was headed back into the Jets’ attacking third, winger Renee Poutney found herself with enough time to send a perfect lob-cross to the back post, where Lilly-Jane Babic was waiting totally unmarked. Babic’s first-time volley into the net brought the Jets level, 2-2.
The visitors would then take the lead six minutes later as Walker once again found Poutney who had got in behind her defender down the left side. While Robertson came out of her area to try and smother the cross, Poutney was able to lift the ball past the keeper and into the 6-yard box, where some miscommunication between two FNSW defenders saw Babic lash home her second of the game from the back post. 2-3.
FNSW had a big chance to claw back a point in the 88th minute after winning a free kick just outside the box, but Gomez rifled it over the crossbar.
2-3 is how the game would end with the Jets earning their second win of the season, while FNSW are now on a run of three straight losses.
Football NSW Institute 2 (Sheridan Gallagher 62′, Isabel Gomez 71′)
Emerging Jets 3 (Kiarnie Latham 18′, Lilly-Jane Babic 76′ 82′)
Football NSW Institute: Sheridan Gallagher, Isabel Gomez, Greta Kraszula, Jayme Millard, Darcey Malone, Aideen Keane, Margaux Chauvet, Isabella Chidiac, Charlie Rule, Jessika Nash, Jordan Jasnos, Scarlet Thomas, Claudia Valletta, Emilija Vidakovic, Tahlia Franco, Cushla Rue.
Emerging Jets: Brooke Kennedy, Kiarnie Latham, Molly Arens, Renee Poutney, Hannah Jones, Bronte Peel, Ameera Makunja, Rachel Duffin, Kirsty Fenton, Lilly-Jane Babic, Ellen Rimmer, Sarah Moore, Susanna Behne-Smith, Teagan Douglas, Bella-Jade Carlisle, Tiahna Robertson.
Around The Grounds:
Sydney Olympic 2 – 1 Manly United
Blacktown Spartans 2 – 1 Illawarra Stingrays
Northern Tigers 0 – 0 Sydney University
North Shore Mariners 2 – 6 NWS Koalas
Macarthur Rams 3 – 3 Bankstown City FC
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