Canberra United kept their Finals hopes alive going into the last week of the regular season after earning a 1-0 win in the rain at the Number Two Sportsground.
Despite the huge amount of rain that had fallen in New South Wales in the lead up to the game, the pitch was in outstanding condition.
The Jets went into the game without Tara Andrews who rolled an ankle in the week building up to the game. Coming in was Sophie Harding, who had an outstanding record in NPLW football last season.
It only took four minutes to see just what Harding adds to the Newcastle side. She showed her incredible pace down the right to speed away from the Canberra defence and play a ball across towards Sunny Franco in the box but the danger passed.
Harding got in again just before the ten minute mark when she comprehensively won a one on one against Emma Ilijoski to further emphasise just how dangerous she can be.
Shortly afterwards, Canberra came the closest yet of the two sides to breaking the deadlock. Keeley Richards’ clearance from the back found Laura Keir who in turn passed to Michelle Heyman. A quick ball out to the right into the feet of Nikki Flannery saw a raid down the wing which ended with a ball squared to Paige Satchell who slid in with Jets keeper Claire Coelho making a wonderful point blank save to deny the Kiwi.
Satchell was involved in the next major action with sixteen minutes played when, following a corner, she turned and got a shot away on the left hand side of the box which Coelho held.
With twenty-two minutes played, the Jets won their first corner, but all it led to was woe. Canberra cleared and broke away down the right with Satchell getting past two Jets before Tessa Tamplin momentarily forced the ball away. It came straight back from Laura Hughes to Kendall Fletcher before a nice pass to Grace Maher who delivered an inch perfect ball into the path of Heyman who had made yet another magnificent run into space before slotting it comfortably past Coelho to ensure Canberra hit the front.
United controlled the possession and territory as they aimed to turn the screw despite the best efforts of the W Jets Active support to get behind the home side.
With half an hour played, Heyman again found space and got a shot away which was over the bar. Just two minutes later she danced her way through the entire midfield before Taren King blocked her effort on goal.
The Jets desperately needed to get a foothold in the game, but despite their best efforts, which included a shot from Hannah Brewer from over 35 yards, Canberra were able to keep the home side at arm’s length pretty comfortably in the period up to half-time.
Indeed the visitors could have extended their lead on three occasions in the last two minutes of the half. First, when Hughes’ dangerous cross to the back post was met by a sliding Flannery who couldn’t quite direct her effort on goal. Just before the break they had another chance when Flannery got away from several challenges and laid off a pass to begin a move which ended with Ilijoski’s wonderful ball into the box for Hughes get a shot away which Coelho saved at the expense of a corner. The flag kick was met by Heyman who struck the post. The rebound fell to Flannery whose effort came crashing back off of the crossbar before Coelho dived on the ball just ahead of the half-time whistle.
Just ninety seconds into the second half, Canberra were denied by Coelho yet again. The razor sharp Heyman released Flannery who was clean through until the Jets custodian saved her team.
With fifty-three minutes on the clock, the Jets finally fashioned a chance, and what a great effort it was. From a throw in down the left just in line with the eighteen yard box, Rhianna Pollicina took possession, turned and unleashed first time a wonderful strike that only just went over the bar.
Chances were few and far between over the next ten minutes or so. The Jets support were creating a fantastic atmosphere in the rain, but try as they might, their team could not produce a serious threat on goal.
Instead, it was the visitors who continued to threaten. Claire Coelho kept her team in it with another outstanding save. A low ball in found Nikki Flannery who hit an effort which the Jets keeper tipped magnificently onto the bar from point blank range.
Shortly afterwards, Heyman got another fierce effort away which Coelho, diving to the right managed to hold on to. With sixty-five minutes played, Bianca Galic was set free by Heyman and she fired in powerful angled drive which was just over the bar.
Panagiota Petratos came on as sub for the Jets and was quickly involved when slipping a ball in towards Franco who got a pacy effort away from a tight angle on the right hand side, but Richards was alive to the danger in the Canberra goal.
With six minutes left, Canberra’s teenage sub Hayley Taylor-Young used her immense pace to get clear and fired in a shot which Coelho saved with her legs at the cost of a corner.
Into stoppage time with the rain now reaching biblical proportions, Jemma House had one final chance to equalise for Newcastle which was just scrambled wide.
Canberra United’s win now sets up a monumental final game of the season for them next weekend at home to likely table-toppers Sydney FC. A victory will guarantee the capital city side will play finals football. Anything less makes it highly unlikely.
Newcastle Jets: Coelho, Tamplin, Simon, King, Brewer, Pollicina, O’Brien, Davis, Harding, Allan, Franco. Substitutes: Simonsen (GK), Bass, Jaber, Petratos, House.
Canberra United: Richards, Keir, Ilijoski, Nash, Fletcher, Galic, Maher, Hughes, Heyman, Flannery, Satchell. Substitutes: James (GK), Grove, Rasschaert, Koulizakis, Taylor-Young.