Credit: Eric Berry
In oppressive heat wave conditions, the Western Sydney Wanderers took to the field at Centrebet stadium in Penrith against the Newcastle Jets in what was a must-win match for both teams.
The Wanderers were bolstered by the return of Matildas Alanna Kennedy and Heather Garriock, adding another dimension of maturity to the side. Meanwhile, a young Newcastle Jets squad were looking to record their first win of the season, with the team having failed to secure a victory in their last 13 appearance in the W-League.
The early exchanges were passive with both teams lacking intensity and struggling to build momentum due to the taxing conditions.
Jets striker and young Matilda, Tara Andrews played in an unaccustomed midfield position, with captain Gema Simon also reverting to a more forward role to provide depth to the Jets attacking formation.
The Wanderers produced the first real goal scoring opportunity of the opening half, with a lingering cross from US import Camille Levin threatening to float into the back of the net, only to be denied by Jets goalkeeper Eliza Campbell, who managed to tip the ball just over the bar.
Campbell, who was called up the Matildas for the first time in November, continues to impress in the Jets goal and, but for her, the Wanderers may have had more success.
Although the Wanderers dictated terms in the opening 30 minutes, with Catherine Cannuli and Linda O’Neill exchanging raids, the Newcastle Jets displayed some promising signs in the front third, with striker Rhali Dobson delivering a long-range shot that sailed above the cross-bar.
The Wanderers continued to dominate possession until the 19th minute, when defenders Caitlin Cooper and Levin received a bit of a scare after the Jets had a goal disallowed.
A late challenge on the diving Demi Poulos rendered the ball loose, with Simon pouncing on the opportunity and slotting the ball into the back of the net. Despite appeals from the Newcastle Jets players, the referee deemed it to be unfair challenge.
After applying consistent pressure on the Jets defensive line, the goal-scoring drought was finally broken and O’Neill, who last week celebrated her 50th W-League appearance, was finally rewarded for her hard efforts.
A clinical through-ball from stalwart Garriock granted O’Neill her first goal of the season as she neatly slotted the ball into the back of the net.
The Newcastle Jets came out firing early in the second half, producing some impressive passages of play and demonstrating discipline in their defensive third. One of the Jets' bright spots this season, Dobson, seemingly impervious to the heat, continued to cause the Wanderers problems with her blistering pace, penetrating the defensive line on several occasions.
She was nearly rewarded for her efforts, only to be brought down inside the penalty area after an awkward challenge from Levin. However, appeals from the Newcastle Jets for a penalty were denied and the Wanderers continued to hold on to their narrow lead.
Although displaying signs of increased confidence, the Jets hopes for a second-half resurgence were hampered, with Cannuli capitalising on a defensive error to score her first goal of the game.
Minutes later, Helen Petinos delivered a pin-point cross to the advancing Cannuli, who headed the ball into the net, granting the striker her brace. Boosted by their comfortable lead, Emily van Egmond continued to demonstrate her attacking flair and tactical superiority, ducking and weaving in between a tiring Jets defence.
The Western Sydney Wanderers cruised to a critical 3-0 win, elevating them to 5th position on the W-League ladder.
The Wanderers have displayed some telling signs of improvement in their last two performances, particularly in the attacking third, with the return of senior Matildas providing an added dimension to their game.
With a difficult draw ahead, facing the likes of Melbourne and Sydney FC, the side will need to climb to new heights if they wish to stay in contention for a finals position.
Meanwhile, all is not bleak for the young Newcastle Jets side, who dominate possession in spells and showed increasing signs of confidence in the second half.
Coach Peter McGuinness concedes that his young squad have considerable room for improvement, and with the acquisition of a few senior Australian and/or international players, this side have plenty of potential.