Canberra United jumped to an early lead over Western Sydney Wanderers, and were able to see off all challenges to finish 3-0 for their seventh straight win. The second half had a messiness to it perhaps best explained by the heat, and some line-up changes for the home side, but also a persistence by the visitors across the park.

Caitlin Munoz converted 6 minutes in, taking a Kendall Fletcher through-ball into the box to score. Fletcher also featured in the second, moving it around swiftly with Veronica Perez from a corner, before setting Kiting up to head one home at the far post. Sykes continued her dynamic season, scoring early in the second half, after being fed a short pass from Perez who had drawn in defenders, to make it three for the home side.

Canberra United – Key Points and Players

Canberra United are maintaining momentum at the right end of the season, and there were definitely new positives to take from Sunday’s clash. Of particular importance, the side was able to manage disruptions following their trip to Perth, where injuries and a Matildas’ camp changed some plans in the build up to finals.

Having been consistent starters for United this season, Michelle Heyman, Lydia Williams, and Emma Checker all found themselves in the stands for this clash. Checker had surgery in Canberra this week following an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the warm up for their Perth match.

The shock omission of two of United’s veterans, was something Canberra coach Rae Dower had to deal with on their return from a Matildas’ camp last week in Sydney.

“Lydia had a fairly solid challenge in their game. Pretty bad challenge actually. Gave her a pretty nasty cork. Michelle was a bit tight from the long trip back from Perth. She basically did rehab running for the week. The national team asked for them to be rested. Obviously we’re already in the semi-finals, and we certainly obliged. It gave the opportunity to other players, and they grabbed them with both hands.”

Both players are expected to be in the squad next round. “If it was a grand final, they both would have played. We certainly know we’ve got enough depth within the squad, for the other players to step in, and they were great today,” Dower said.

Much of the success this season for United has built on their consistently solid backline, and it was a positive for them to produce another clean sheet without key players there.

Kendall Fletcher talked about the side always trying to build, pleased with another win. “Obviously, getting a 7 game winning streak, you can go one of two ways: you can get stale, or you can build momentum. And I think that’s been a big focus of ours, from the coaching staff and the players. To just keep building each week, because while we’re getting good results, I don’t think any of us feel that we’re where we need to be. And I think today we came out hungry.

“Obviously playing at McKellar, our home field, it means a lot to us. We just got on there and got about business. When you get goals early it changes games. I think we still need to keep pushing, can we get that third, can we get that fourth, earlier, and put games away. Credit to all the girls who stepped in. From the top of our roster to the bottom, anyone can step on and do a good job for us, and that’s a sign of a really strong team.”

A hot Canberra day was also a factor in the game, and Fletcher compared it to the week earlier. “It wasn’t a cool day by any means, but coming off Perth, it was kind of pleasant. The Perth game for whatever reason was with the travel, and there might have been more humidity in there, it was really hot the last game. So it took a bit out of us.”

“This game I think we carried a little of that into it, but again when you have a team performance like you do, we were able to kind of rest ourselves within that game while still getting something out of it, which is absolutely ideal. When you’re on top of a team and playing like that, you get the energy from that. Obviously we’ve got a quick turnaround now, so we’ve got to do the right things, and hydrate. It’s always easier when you’re winning.”

There were a few communication issues in the backline, with loose balls out in dangerous areas. Overall, though it was a significant team performance in defence that kept a handful of Wanderers’ attacks at bay.  A goal line clearance from Julia De Angelis in the last ten minutes, with Melissa Maizels beaten was particularly impressive and exemplifies the whole team approach coaching staff and players have pointed to as a key to success.”

Competing for spots is also still a factor. “Everyone knows right up until the end of the week that any player can step into the team. Everyone fights really hard during the week to earn their spot. And then those players who go out to do the job on the weekend, everyone’s got full confidence in them,” Dower explained.

Western Sydney Wanderers – Key Points and Players

Western Sydney made the home side work for every opportunity in the match. Chances for the visitors were rare in the first half, but as play opened up they stayed with United for what was a competitive and busy second term.

Micah returning from injury was a central reason the result didn’t end in a blowout. In the second half particularly, Canberra enjoyed wave upon wave of attack, and the Wanderers ‘keeper Teagan Micah was forced to make a few cracking saves back to back.  Caitlin Cooper was relentless in defence similarly, with Carmelina Moscato and Ellie Carpenter rounding out a backline that was able to push the home side wide for a significant period of the match.

Going down by two goals early would no doubt see many sides drop their heads and intensity, but the Wanderers kept building, and made use of the counter to create chances through Chloe O’Brien and Erica Halloway.

Kendall Johnson was replaced 20 minutes in, a sign perhaps she’s still recovering from injury.

Up Next

Canberra United only have a few days to prepare for Adelaide next round on Friday night. They travel and face a side desperate to make finals.

Coach Rae Dower has her eye on this match only and will be preparing her team carefully this week. “Given that we’ve only got a very short turnaround to go to Adelaide, it’s on synthetic, and temperatures in Adelaide have been pretty unpredictable. So who knows, we might get a 42 degree kickoff time at 7 o’clock.”

Fletcher and Dower both responded to questions about having an eye on finals. For Fletcher it’s about building. “Obviously we take it one game at a time. So we have Adelaide next week. Now that we’re in the semi we are looking forward to that game. Obviously City is somebody we’d love to face, if we are in the position to face them and they get through their semi too. We just want to be as prepared as possible, and keep getting better, and not limit ourselves to anything.”

Similarly, Dower is focused on getting through each week. “For us we need to concentrate on beating Adelaide next week. So that gives us more momentum and more cohesion going in. Then we’ve got a semi-final opponent, which is more than likely going to be Sydney here on the 24th.”

“As Kendall said, we’ve got our eye toward that [the Grand Final], but we know that we have to still get a couple of wins to earn that spot to get there. Like they [Melbourne City] do.”

Western Sydney Wanderers will close out their season at home, playing Perth Glory, with both sides out of contention. They’ll take into the game on Sunday a few rued chances, but also hopefully an outlook for next season, that they have a competitive squad.


Canberra United 3 (Munoz 6’, Kiting 11’, Sykes 58’)

Western Sydney Wanderers 0

Sunday 10 January 2016

McKellar Park, Canberra

Kick-off: 4.00pm

Referee: Rebecca Durcau

Attendance: 1,281

Canberra United: Melissa Maizels (gk), Julia De Angelis, Kendall Fletcher, Jenna McCormick, Caitlin Munoz (Tegan Riding 74’), Ellie Brush, Emma Kete (Meg McLaughlin 67’), Nicole Begg (c)(Grace Gill 63’), Ashleigh Sykes, Veronica Perez, Rebecca Kiting

Substitutes: Georgia Boric Cautions: Ashleigh Sykes 83’

Western Sydney Wanderers: Teagan Micah, Caitlin Cooper, Carmelina Moscato, Chloe O’Brien (Eliza Ammendolia 60’), Kendall Johnson (Rachael Soutar 24’), Helen Petinos, Erica Halloway, Michelle Carney, Keelin Winters, Hannah Beard (Elizabeth Grey 60’) Ellie Carpenter

Substitutes: Jada Mathyssen-Whyman