3-1 the order of the weekend as Springs NRFL Women’s teams open the season.
Auckland United visited Seddon Fields looking to repeat their victories from last weekend in front of a bumper crowd.
In the first action of the Women’s NRFL season, Auckland United were under the lights at Seddon Fields on Friday night in a repeat of the previous week's NRFL Pre-Season Cup Final.
After suffering defeat in that cup final, Springs knew this game would be tough against a very strong Auckland United team.
Springs had a host of newcomers in the line-up as well as the returning Jo Muir, who was back in the green & white after a stint working for the United Nations in Geneva last season. Emma Pijnenburg has joined the Senior Women’s squad this season after being part of the youth boys set up at Springs and played her first ever 90 minutes of football, in goal Kate Hannay made a great showing in what was also her first senior women's game (there’s a great backstory to how she ended up between the sticks, but we’ll save that for another day).. The stand out debut came from Casey Berrier who put in a Woman of the Match performance, only cementing Head Coach Alex Fantoni’s comments that Casey will be the one to watch this season.
It didn’t take too long for one of the debutants to assist in getting Springs an early lead. After a poor clearance from United’s keeper Riva Fuimaono, Pijnenburg combined with Rina Hirano to put Maggie Pederson through on goal and finish superbly over Fuimaono, settling any nerves there may have been.
The rest of the first half saw some rusty finishing and the goals leading a charmed life at both ends. Opportunities from both sides were squandered and the teams went into the break with Springs having a slight advantage, but given recent experience, knowing the game could go either way in the second forty five.
The whole squad has been working hard on the pressing game, positions in attack & defence and knowing “when to hold em, and when to fold em”, so Coach Fantoni would have been pleased that in the 56th minute, from that pressing came a second.
After pressing high into United’s defensive third, a freekick was awarded to Springs. Some quick thinking from Pederson found full back Arisa Takeda high on the right, whose low cross found Berrier in the box, only for her effort to crash against the base of the upright. United failed to clear the ball with it falling to the relentless Sophia Dyer once again feeding Takeda who whipped her second attempt into the box. This time, Berrier took no chances, dominating in the air and nodding home her first goal for Springs and in the NRFL competition.
Eight minutes later Berrier was once again on hand, this time in her own box, to thwart United at the other end, rising highest to clear an inswinging corner and to keep the visitors searching for that elusive first NRFL goal.
They didn’t have to wait too much longer. After having their own penalty denied early on in the first half, Springs conceded one in the 73rd minute. United’s Martine Puketapu took on the back line at pace, not for the first time in the game, however, this time, she got the better of centre back Tayla O’Brien who brought her down.
Up stepped Alosi Bloomfield to slot past Hannay. 2-1 Springs and the competitive match anticipated by those that follow the women’s premier competition was shaping up as such.
It didn’t take long for Springs to restore their 2 goal lead though. In the 77th minute, another Takeda free kick from the left found the head of Berrier whose shot beat the United keeper but found the far post and cannoned off it, luckily for Springs, into the path of Pederson who cooly slotted home for her second of the evening and Springs third.
There were chances for both sides in the last ten minutes. United were close to conceding a 4th in the 81st minute but for a great save from their keeper Fuimaono, tipping it onto the bar and Springs unable to finish the rebound. Springs Berrier was on hand yet again in the 86th minute to keep the margin at 2 after rising above the crowds in her own area to clear a decent free-kick from ex-Springs player Charlotte Tinsley.
3-1 the final result and a satisfying 3 points on the board.
“Our team was too strong on the day for Auckland United. I was not surprised to see the team playing well because they had been training very well. When you have a group of coachable players like them and they give you commitment and responsibility for the team you already have a good team.
Head Coach, Alessandro (Alex) Fontani
Women’s Premier Reserves
Sunday saw the reserves attempting to replicate the great start to the season made by the Prems on Friday night as they looked to redeem themselves from a heavy loss to the same opposition just a week ago.
As with the Prem team, there were a number of senior debuts for the Reserves, Kitty Jacobs who scored Springs only goal of the game, Kennedy Masse, who showed moments of brilliance, but most notably Celia Mayo and Amber Cooper were stand out performers in their first game.
Springs showed a lot more promise this week though the amount of minutes played as a team seemed to be in favour of Auckland United who showed great understanding of each other's positioning and presence across the pitch.
Despite the 3-1 loss, there was a marked improvement from the previous week. Improving week by week and more game time together will in turn result in a more cohesive performance when Springs travel to Keith Hay Park later in the season.
“If we are able to tie in those things we have been working on at training more regularly we will see a stronger performance over the 90 minutes which will allow individuals as well as the team as a whole to shine.”
Coach Matt Upton
This year sees the return of Western Springs in the NRF Women’s Championship. The team is part of the wider NRFL Women’s Squad and is a way for younger inexperienced members of the squad to continue to train at a high level whilst still getting game time with some of the more experienced members of the group in a competitive league.
The season opener was a new experience for most with the team jumping on the 10 o’clock ferry to Waiheke. For some of the team it was their first time to the island, and for others, it was their first that didn’t involve wine.
Stepping into the unknown of both a new league & new opposition, coach Joe Cavanagh knew that regardless of this, if the team applied the learnings from the training pitch and enjoyed their football, any team in this league should find it hard to break them down.
Waiheke were promoted to the Championship after winning Div 2 last season, and with a team (and fan base) predominantly made up of Argentinians, it was set to be a feisty, combative game.
Springs fielded a young team, most notably two of our 16th Grade players, Mia Price and Rosie Davis, making their first appearance at senior level and both doing exceptionally well.
As with both the Prems & Reserves, a number of players made their Springs debut with newcomers Alicia Mark, Silvia Fianco, Nicky Britten and Emma McDougall all making fantastic first impressions on debut. Goalkeeper Fianco in particular made vital saves in the 1st half. Despite Springs dominating the ball and play, missed opportunities meant Fianco’s saves saw Springs go into the break with a 2-1 lead and the game in the balance.
Intelligent pressing and hard work kept Waiheke pinned in their end in the second half. Again as in the first half, wasteful finishing kept the game alive longer than it should have been.
After one of the performances of the night on Friday, Maggie Pederson stepped in to help make up numbers on Sunday and continued her scoring streak with another brace from midfield. Defensive midfield stalwart Jaedeci Uluvili rounded off the goals late on, showing all those that came before the way to finish. After breaking free from some pinball just outside the box, Uluvili found herself 1:1 with the Waiheke keeper and cooly slotted it into the space in the bottom left corner.
Another 3-1 result, and the second on the right side of the ledger for Springs. 3 points for the opening weekend in a new competition with a lot of new faces.
“A great start to the campaign against last season's promoted side, well-done team, we need to keep working hard at training to improve our standards further.”
Coach Joe Cavanagh