Our 2019/20 W-League campaign has gotten off to a slightly disappointing start, with the City girls held to a 1-1 draw against Newcastle Jets on Sunday night.
Emily van Egmond initially brought the game to life in the 22nd minute when she hammered a long-range effort into the bottom corner to put us 1-0 up, with the assist provided by new signing Claire Emslie.
Having taken the lead into the break, we allowed the Jets back into the game when Teigan Collister let off a bit of a worldie in the 67th, placing her outside-the-box half-volley right where the spiders live in the top corner, giving Lydia Williams no chance.
We came close to restoring the lead on several occasions, but were ultimately forced to share the spoils on a disappointing day for the club as a whole.
Here are three things we learned from last night’s W-League opener:
Kyah Simon’s absence creates a domino effect
City’s stalwart striker missed our Sunday afternoon clash with a calf injury and the void her absence left created a chain of subsequent position changes that hampered our performance.
With Simon out, regular winger Claire Emslie moved central, which isn’t too much of an issue as she has the versatility to play right across the front three.
From there, however, attacking midfielder Mili Mijatovic was forced out onto the left wing, with regular left-back Steph Catley moving into a defensive midfield position whilst van Egmond and Kinga played higher, leaving 19-year-old Chelsea Blissett to deputise for Catley at left fullback.
Blissett performed only as could realistically be expected for someone so inexperienced and whilst she put in a respectable shift, the youngster was a little error-prone and less defensively-secure than required.
The chain of position-changed players was the real issue though, with Mijatovic particularly underutilised in the wider position when her strengths are clearly suited for more central involvement.
Whilst the impending signing of Aivi Luik (more on that further below) will mean that Catley needn’t move into the midfield from now on, the squad could really use another top striker to strengthen our depth in that position, allowing Emslie to play wide and Mijatovic to stay in midfield.
This super-late preseason recruitment is starting to become an issue
We’re well aware that relying heavily on recruitment of players from leagues like the American NWSL is a double-edged sword. The quality of the players is obviously of an impressive standard – a standard that we, as one of the bigger W-League sides, should be targeting – but this recruitment comes with the drawback of players arriving pretty much on the eve of the season.
In his Kayo commentary of yesterday’s match, Ben Homer repeatedly mentioned that we’ve also still got Matildas midfielder Aivi Luik and Kiwi defender Rebekah Stott to re-sign with City for this season when they return from the Norwegian Toppserien.
The late arrival of recruits has influenced some pretty slow starts in recent seasons and with only 12 league fixtures to play all up, there’s not a whole lot of room for point-dropping.
The lack of attacking fluency and cohesion between teammates across the park is something that only addresses itself on the training ground with all of the squad in attendance.
These late signings need to be sorted out ASAP… and then we’ve got to build VERY quickly from there.
Carpenter, Emslie and van Egmond are set for big seasons
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. The draw was a disappointing result and it’s far from an ideal start to the season, but the star signings of Ellie Carpenter, Claire Emslie and van Egmond look like they’ll pay off in spades.
Ellie Carpenter was her usual energetic self, bombing up and down the wings and taking the fullback role to its most offensive potential; she almost won us the game in the second half when she beat three opponents to find an unmarked Mijatovic at the back post with an open net, but the Serb missed from a tight angle.
Claire Emslie was the livewire of the front three and looked most likely to score, even hitting the post in the dying minutes with a well-taken header from a difficult position.
Emily van Egmond was probably the best of the lot though, even ignoring her amazing long-range goal. She demonstrated her superior quality all game, proving to be the key cog in midfield going forward and in defence.
The most pleasing thing about the performances of these star players, however, is that they’re still far from reaching their ceiling and are capable of putting in truly electrifying performances as the season progresses.