Western Sydney Wanderers’ maturing and ever growing confidence was on show last night, with a solid 1-0 win over a gallant Perth Glory. A Julie-Ann Russell first half winner was enough for the Red & Black to maintain their flickering finals hopes.
1. Julie-Ann Russell is going to be a star
Seems odd saying a 59 capped Irish international is going to be a star, but this is Russell’s first W-League season. After a mixed start to the season she has really come of age in the last few weeks. Playing in her preferred left sided position has helped.
Last night she was excellent. She had 58 touches and her passing was on target (80% accuracy). Even more impressive was her appetite for the contest, being involved in 10 duels and winning most of them.
She didn’t forget the defensive side of her game with six crucial tackles as she helped break down the Perth attack. Her link up play with winger Georgia Yeoman-Dale has reaped plenty of reward over the last few weeks and they looked dangerous together again last night.
Her goal - after great lead up work from Caitlin Cooper - was just rewards for a fantastic few weeks.
2. Wander Women have a number of avenues to goal and plenty of appetite to defend
While Yeoman-Dale and Russell were strong on the left, it was Danika Matos and Teigan Collister on the right who kept Perth on the back foot. Matos had 92 touches last night and was always involved. She has been a revelation this season.
With Libby Copus-Brown and Sarah Hunter providing starch and spark in the middle, the Wander Women have plenty of options in attack.
The pleasing thing for Dean Heffernan is the willingness of these attack minded players to also track back in defence. Collister made four tackles last night while Hunter had five as the Red & Black won 88% of tackles attempted to put pressure on the Glory attack all night.
The enthusiasm and the energy the team has shown over the past three weeks in particular is a testament to the spirit in the team. All players talk glowingly about playing for each other and also the love they have for the coaching staff.
Could all of this mean a fairytale run to the finals? Only time will tell.
3. Perth Glory should be admired
It would be grossly unfair to judge Perth Glory this year. Last night was only their fourth game and they haven’t played in nearly four weeks.
New coach Alex Epakis - widely regarded as one of the best young coaches in the country - has a tough job in his debut season. To his and his team's credit they fought hard last night despite the obstacles against them.
Lily Alfeld in the Perth goals had an excellent game making six saves including three spectacular ones - one off Copus-Brown, a brilliant tip over the bar when the ball looked destined to hit the top right hand corner of the net.
Taneesha Baker on debut was also involved, especially early, and showed plenty of promise. Hana Lowry and Liz Anton were heavily involved all night as they tried to keep their team in the game.
The Glory take on Brisbane this weekend and that will be a great test for Epakis’ team.