MATCH REPORT | Royals women steal the show at Cross Keys
The Essendon Royals became the first team to take points of Spring Hills Stallions FC in a gripping Women’s State League 2 North-West encounter.
Spring Hills must have thought they were on their way to a 10th-straight win of the season when they raced to a 2-0 lead over the Royals at Cross Keys Reserve, but the Royals had other plans.
Goals from Eilaan Nissan and Talia Jane in the second half brought the Royals back to level terms to ensure that the Royals return to Cross Keys Reserve was marked with a heroic point.
Coach Johnno Clemente was full of praise for his team after its remarkable performance.
“It just shows the character of this team,” he said.
“We went 2-0 down against a side like Spring Hills who haven’t dropped a point all season and the girls dug deep and didn’t stop believing.
“Once again this group of girls continue to prove everyone wrong.”
The Royals had to battle through a difficult first half, however and did well to limit Spring Hills to just the one goal.
Spring Hills struck early and the Royals had to fight with every ounce of their being to stop the score from blowing out beyond the one goal.
Clemente used the half-time break to change the structure of his team and make some tactical tweaks, allowing the Royals to gain a bit more control over the second half.
At times, though, it remained a backs-to-the-walls job and Spring Hills eventually made it 2-0 leaving the Royals just 35 minutes to make something of the game.
Of course, the Royals were not just tasked with coming back against any old team. They would need to do it against a team which has been far and away the best team in the league this season.
To this point, Spring Hills had only conceded two goals all season.
The Royals would double that tally before the match was over.
With the clock ticking away, Nissan made a smart run, peeling off her defender to get onto the end of a brilliant pass from midfield and slotted the ball into the bottom corner with 20 minutes still to play.
The Royals sensed the opportunity at hand and rose to the occasion.
With Spring Hills shocked at conceding a goal, the Royals increased their offensive pressure and relentlessly pressed the Spring Hills defence and midfield.
Their pressure paid off when Jane managed to cap off a brilliant team move to score a crucial equaliser.
The goal shocked Spring Hills into action and the Royals defensive instincts had to kick in once again.
There was enough time for the visitors to create one last chance inside the final 10 minutes but with Spring Hills’ striker bearing down on goal, Royals keeper Celia Talbot rushed off her line to produce an incredibly one-on-one save to ensure her team took a share of the spoils at full-time.
The final whistle blew to confirm the outstanding result for the Royals and their coach Clemente, who praised the tactical versatility of his players and their courage to turn their biggest loss of the season in the reverse fixture into a brilliant point.
“Tactically we are so adaptable and it has really got us over the line in some games, and this game was no different,” he said.
“We have this ability to be able to change formation, style and press without any issues at any given moment.
“That’s a credit to the girls they listen to every tactical idea I have and always take new ideas on board with no hesitation and it shows the respect the girls have for me.
"In the reserve fixture, we lost 5-0 and now we matched them today so it’s a massive confidence boost to see how much we’ve turned this team around to now be 8 games undefeated.”