Players endure highs and lows in third round of LCFA action

All emotions from agony and ecstasy were experienced during the third round of the Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Senior Women’s Premiership Cup.

Apollo edged out Gambier Centrals in a thrilling contest which went down to the wire, while few experienced nerves at Casadio Park as International easily accounted for Millicent.

Malseed Park was also getting prepared to host the Blue Lake and Naracoorte women for a Sunday afternoon contest.

But sadly the pitch remained unoccupied as the game had to be rescheduled after the visiting Naracoorte team was not in a position to field a playing XI following an outbreak of COVID-19.

Despite only two games taking place, there was still plenty of round ball action for fans to enjoy over the weekend and the highlight took place at Blue Lake Sports Park.

The Saturday afternoon battle between Centrals and Apollo was the clear match of the round and it lived up to expectations.

Once again the Lions were far from full strength missing captain Kiah Connelly and key midfielders Wanita Robinson and Erin Horsnell.

The combination of the big-name losses and the challenge of kicking against a strong gust of wind at the open Blue Lake Sports Park field meant Centrals struggled to compete with Apollo across the first half.

Boosted by the breeze, the blue and white went on the attack and controlled the play with the ball locked in their attacking half.

Paris Ackland and Izzy Frewster were the main acts pushing the ball forward and giving Apollo every opportunity to score.

Even as Apollo dominated possession, new recruit Eillie Doheny impressed as did Rayian Smith and Rachel Muzeliwa as the Centrals defence remained resilient and spirited throughout the onslaught.

But the Lions could only withstand for so long and they had little left in reserve when Bella Calderwood broke the game open.

Calderwood nailed the left-hand corner of the net with a fierce 25m laser shot to get the blue and white on the board.

Continuing to put Centrals’ defenders under the magnifying glass, Apollo did not need to wait long to double its lead.

Nop Pah Rad sent the ball in the air towards the goal and once it got caught in the wind, Lions’ keeper Bronwen Mitchell could do little as the weather gods sent it into the back of the net.

Some gutsy efforts from Centrals ensured Apollo’s lead remained 2-0 at the break and keep both sides interested.

Now with the wind behind the Lions’ back, it was the blue and white’s turn to knuckle down and defend like their lives depended on it.

Thanks to Zoe Brooksby and Bec Peters, Apollo managed to resist the charging Centrals for a while until Olivia Gwilym and Isla Dickson combined brilliantly.

Gwilym had been giving her opponents headaches and perfected a smart cross to Connelly, who completed the play to get the Lions up and about.

Things then got interesting when Rayian Smith scored her first senior goal and with the scores level, 25 minutes still left on the clock and the wind dropping, the result was anyone’s guess.

Fans crept to the edge of their seats as both sides pressed hard for victory, but could not find the winning shot.

Apollo moved some magnets on the field and these changes paid the ultimate dividend.

With only a handful of minutes left on the clock, Paris Ackland cut through Centrals’ defence and nailed a close-range shot to complete a memorable victory.

Apollo coach James Stephenson said the way his girls won a topsy-turvy game shows the strides they are taking.

“The weather was always going to impact the ability to play quality football, but we had some nice passages of play, control and determination,” he said.

“We maintained a high line to prepare for Centrals onslaught in the second half and a reshuffle brought some sustained pressure and opportunities.

“With minutes to go, Paris struck the ball sweetly into the back of the net to send our fans home happy.

“Apollo continues to grow as a team and squad.”

Playing on the new pitch at Casadio Park, Millicent could not keep up with a strong International outfit.

Inter controlled possession from kick off and scored within minutes after Florencia Llambi completed a well-constructed play.

The floodgates opened as Ella Doody, April Hockey and Leoni Robertson all joined Llambi with two goals to ensure their crushing performance was reflected on the scoreboard which read 8-0.

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