Palmerston North Marist 4
Women’s Central League
Sunday 1 May 2016
“Any score yet?” enquired a late-arrival to the match at the 15-minute mark.
“0-0”, I said, “but there’s been a familiar pattern to the game”,
“Watch this Seatoun goal-kick, it’ll probably reflect the game so far”.
The move was typical of the match to that point. Marist would win the ball back from the goal kick, a mixture of anticipation and strength. They would then create a shooting opportunity and, with the slight breeze behind them, have a shot at goal.
This dutifully happened. Ella James (this time, other times it was Siobhan Patterson or Mikaela Boxall) winning the ball and a couple of passes later it found Laura Nottle who had a shot at goal.
This time, the result was different. Although it was straight to the goalkeeper, the Seatoun keeper let it slip through her hands and between her legs and it trickled over the goal-line to give the visitors the lead.
Apart from the goalkeeping error, the move had summed up the first ¼ hour (and most of the 1st half) as Seatoun struggled to retain possession.
Palmerston North Marist had acquired some of the players from Massey University a couple of years ago to gain promotion to Central League. Over summer, it appears they’ve grabbed much of the rest of them. Marist have recruited ex-Massey players such as Patterson, Rhonda Bridges, Amber Phillips among others. Marist are coached this year by Simon Lees, who coached Massey University for several successful seasons (including their run to the Final of the 2012 National Knock-Out Cup).
With an extra team from Palmerston North in the League (Valeron and Massey now joined by promoted Marist), it’s thought that at least one would struggle. Turns out that one is Massey. From record-breaking National Knock-Out Cup finalists last year to an unrecognisable squad, Massey were demolished 16-2 (yes sixteen) in the previous week of Central League.
It’s been a dry season so far in Wellington and the fields are still hard and bumpy. Seatoun Park had a good cover of grass, but what lays beneath it is still hard. In the 38th minute, a bouncing ball was nudged on by a Seatoun player. Marist’s TJ Lyne-Lewis found herself behind the backline (in what would have been an offside position if it had been played by one of her own players), took the ball a couple of paces forward, before shooting low past the Seatoun goalkeeper into the bottom corner. 0-2.
Marist sat back a bit more in the second half. A couple of substitutions giving them more of a defensive feel as Seatoun played with the slight breeze at their backs. But it was Marist who scored first. A low ball from the Marist left was missed by the Seatoun defence and Lyne-Lewis pounced, smashing it into the goal.
Seatoun grabbed a goal back when there was suggestion of offside in the original move with the AR putting his flag up early, but the putting it down again. The ball was cleared to the feet of Natalie Johnstone who shot it through a crowd of players into the goal. Marist players were claiming offside, but I couldn’t tell whether the reason the keeper didn’t move was because she was unsighted or whether she had noticed the earlier flag and not played to the whistle.
Marist made some late subs and it was one of those Hannah Fitzgerald, who scored in stoppage time to make it 4-1 at fulltime.
One spectator mentioned to me that the performance of the Seatoun team wasn’t up to last season’s league champion level.
I replied, “They lack depth”.
She responded, “They lack width”.
An astute observation, but I think part of the inability to get the ball wide is their failure to retain possession. It’s hard for the full-backs to press on if they’re not confident that the ball would be retained by those inside them. Pushing two of the front three wider would make more space for the likes of Marist’s Patterson and James to intercept the ball.
There are some great players in the Seatoun side, but they need some more organisation and commitment to retain the ball against teams like Marist who are challenging towards the top of the Central League.
Words by Phil Clayton.
Photographs of this match by Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots).
Categories: NZ Women's Central/W-League
Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.