Impetus’ Ben Gilby, Kieran Yap, and Ryan Miller-Woods report on today’s A-League Women media conferences at Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory, Wellington Phoenix, and Western Sydney Wanderers – where there is news of a vital new signing (30/12/22).
by Ben Gilby
Adelaide United go into their New Year’s Eve game at Newcastle Jets on the back of a two-week break, something head coach Adrian Stenta believes makes his side extra hungry for success at Number Two Sportsground.
The South Australians’ last match was back on 17th December at Wellington Phoenix, and Stenta highlighted the positives and negatives of that unexpected change to their schedule.
“It’s been a bit different, challenging at times because we had the bye followed by a postponed game (the return clash with Wellington Phoenix), but we’ve had time to work on things and put plans in place starting with the game at Newcastle Jets.
“Any time you have a larger amount of time between games it allows you to freshen up. We’re excited to get going again. When you are starved of games, it makes the next one coming up that bit more enticing and important.”
Adelaide United journey up to Newcastle tomorrow to take on a Jets side who have the leakiest defence in the competition by some margin, yet only leaders Melbourne City have scored more goals than Ash Wilson’s side. The Reds’ head coach recognises the threat, but understands the opportunity for another win is there for his side.
“Newcastle have the ability to play really attractive, dangerous attacking football,” Stenta said. “They have some dangerous players, particularly in their attack. They can put scoreboard pressure on and score goals. We do feel there are opportunities for us to hurt the opposition and gain advantage. If we are able to execute, then we can beat any opposition on any given day.”
Tomorrow’s game brings down the curtain on the most successful calendar year in the history of Adelaide United’s women’s team. Their head coach believes that 2023 could be even better.
“We’re hopeful to finish the year as we started it, and that’s on a positive. We have high hopes and expectations. The club is moving in the right direction, and 2022 is an example of that. We know we have some big hurdles to climb in 2023, but there is something special in this group. We’re looking forward to doing what we can to unleash that.”
by Kieran Yap
After winning their last three games, Melbourne Victory are in the hunt for a fourth against Canberra United on Saturday afternoon.
Thirteen days will have passed since Victory’s last match, a 5-2 win over the Newcastle Jets that coach Jeff Hopkins was still effusive about after the Christmas break. “We’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on the performance,” Hopkins told the media. “The first-half performance from us against Newcastle is right up there with the best that we’ve played.
“In terms of our football, in terms of the intensity and the quality and just the way that we finished everything off, is as good as I’ve ever seen since I’ve been at the club I think.”
Victory surged to a 4-0 lead before halftime in their last outing with in-form striker Melia Ayres and captain Kayla Morrison both netting braces. Although Melbourne conceded twice in the second half, Hopkins looked at that as an opportunity for the team to improve as they strive for 90 minutes of consistent football.
“Obviously there were reasons in the second half why we had that little drop-off. Losing Casey (Dumont) was a big part of that. We didn’t handle the transition from her coming off, and Miranda (Templeman) coming on. The Jets scored straight away, and we had a little bit of an anxious 20 minutes or so.
“It showed us an area that we needed to work on. We’re now comfortable if that does happen again, we’re better prepared for that.” Goalkeeper Dumont was substituted with a concussion but has been declared fit to play against Canberra. She passed her return-to-play protocols with “flying colours” according to the coach. Victory will also be buoyed by the return of Grand Final hero Amy Jackson to the squad. The club has been cautious with her this season and refused to rush her back.
Hopkins said that Jackson’s availability will have knock-on effects for the whole team. “Amy’s the one, it gives us a few more options. Obviously, we can move KK (Elise Kellond-Knight) around, we can move Murph (Alana Murphy) around. Chids isn’t so stuck in the position that she’s been. That opens things up for us.”
Jackson’s return offsets the loss of central defender Claudia Bunge. Victory will have to face the unpredictable and dangerous Canberra attack without one of the pillars of last season’s success. “That’s the one loss we’ve had,” said Hopkins. “She didn’t come up from the injury a couple of weeks ago, but she was touch and go for tomorrow, but we’ve decided we’re not going to risk her. Hopefully we’ll get her back for next week.”
The immediate test is Canberra United. Melbourne Victory’s performances have been steadily improving over the past month. They have registered a tight win over Wellington Phoenix, an impressive defeat of Perth Glory away from home, and a convincing display against The Jets. Hopkins would like to see that trajectory continue on Saturday.
“It will be interesting to see how we perform from the start but also in the areas that we’ve highlighted,” said Hopkins. “Can we do what we’ve set out to do and follow the game plan and be successful?”
Victory are more rested than this weekend’s visitors who lost 4-0 to Melbourne City before Christmas. However, the Victory head coach is wary of the threats they pose. Particularly Michelle Heyman, who Hopkins described as one of the best strikers in the league.
“She’s got pace, she’s very smart and a great finisher. Two great wide players as well. Their attack in transition is where they’re very very strong. “I think that could be the key to us defensively, to counter the counter-attack as well as we possibly can, not let them attack quickly. “If we can do that, that will go a big way towards negating a lot of their threats.
by Ryan Miller-Woods
Wellington Phoenix face a hugely important game against fellow winless outfit Western Sydney Wanderers on Monday, and goalkeeper Brianna Edwards is confident that her side are going to repeat their victory against the Wanderers from last season.
Despite a difficult run results-wise from the start of the season, Edwards sees definite signs of the team coming together once more under adversity: “I think it’s been character-building. It’s brought out a lot mentally in a lot of the girls and me especially, you know copping goals in the first couple of rounds was hard, but I think it allowed us to steer the team in the right direction, we’re getting closer and closer, the win is coming and conceding less goals. It’s hard but we’re getting there.
“The culture at the (Wellington) Phoenix as a club is great, I think we’ve grown to become a family over the last year and this season. It’s definitely what keeps our team together in the hard times”.
Edwards has been deputising for the injured Lily Alfeld all season to date and has been, to a degree, thrown in at the deep end, but it is a situation that she is embracing: “As an athlete, I think it’s hard to be happy with your performance all the time but I think there’s definitely been moments where I’m like this is how I want to perform, it’s just about being more consistent.
“I think that will come with more experience, you know I’ve only played six games in the A-League (Women). More experience and more games is going to give that consistency.”
While the results haven’t been there for Wellington so far into the season, they have been showing signs that they are on the up, and in at least a few of their matches, luck simply hasn’t been on their side – that has to change at some point, and there’s no reason why that cannot happen on Monday.
Also speaking to the media today was Saskia Vosper who believes that it is only a matter of time before Wellington Phoenix notch their first win of the campaign.
“I feel like every game we get better and better like from the first game we had (against Melbourne City) probably a first half of a really good performance then we’ve just building and building from there. I’m excited to go out against Western Sydney and show them what we can do.”
Vosper outlined the key role that head coach Natalie Lawrence and her coaching staff have had in keeping confidence high among the squad. “Well, it’s all about staying calm and doing the simple things right and just fighting together as a team and just going out there as a unified team.”
The Phoenix full-back believes that herself and her teammates are benefitting from drawing from their well of tough experiences from last season’s inaugural campaign in the division, and it has made them better people and players as a result.
“I kind of know what to expect (now). Last season I was very naive and I didn’t what the calibre of games (in the A-League Women) were, but this season I kind of know how to prepare myself, both mentally and physically.”
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS:
by Ben Gilby
Western Sydney Wanderers have announced the signing of Philippines international Sarina Bolden. The 26-year-old striker has most recently been playing in Japan, and has 17 goals in 29 international appearances.
It is an important capture for Wanderers head coach Kat Smith whose side have only scored two goals all season, and gone goalless in their last four matches. “Sarina Bolden… can play across the front three. For us to score more goals this season, it’s a key move going forward,” Smith admitted.
Reflecting further on her team’s showings so far this season, which has seen a number of positive performances undone by an inability to score, the Western Sydney boss praised her squad for refusing to let things get them down.
“There have been moments in games that have been frustrating, moments when decisions haven’t gone our way, but credit to the players, they keep turning up to training. (They are) determined to get better. They are not letting those moments in previous games impact their approach to training and the next match.”
Wanderers face a huge game on Monday when they travel to Wellington Phoenix for a battle of the bottom two, as the only winless teams in the competition go head-to head. Smith said: “It will be interesting to see how Wellington show up. Factoring in the travel, it’s an international flight, but we’re ready to play.
Defender Danika Matos believes that the strengths new signing Sarina Bolden brings to the club could bring about a change in her side’s fortunes in front of goal.
“Sarina is a great addition to the team. She is a true nine, very strong on the ball, she has great vision, she’s here to score goals, and that is exactly what we need.”
Matos recognised the frustrations around her team’s start to the season, something she puts down to the sheer number of new faces in the squad.
“We’ve had a tough run. We’re still a new team, we’re still trying to gel. We’re finding out each other’s ways of playing and understanding each other’s attributes. Every week we are progressing more. We just want to try and get the ball back in the net.”
Monday’s clash in Wellington is hugely important for both sides, and the Western Sydney Wanderers defender is under no illusions as to how tough it will be.
“Wellington – they are a young team and very aggressive. They come at you a hundred miles an hour. They are in their home-town, they haven’t played many games there, so we’re expecting a fight.”