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Balcatta into Top Four Final

Report by Edward Nixon

Balcatta held off a fast-finishing Northern Redbacks to book their Women’s Top Four Cup Final ticket with a 2-1 win at Grindleford Reserve on Sunday.

Cassandra Harvey and Tessa De Leo grabbed goals either side of half-time before Renee Leota’s strike set up a grandstand finish.

Balcatta stood firm, however, to set up a mouth-watering final with Queens Park next week.

“For the girls to hold their nerve, I’m really happy,” Balcatta coach Lisa Tana said.

“We took our chances when we had them – overall I’m very happy with the girls and the result.”

In a cagey first half, it was the Redbacks who went close to delivering the first blow – Leota shooting wide after a defensive miscommunication by Balcatta’s centre backs within the opening minute.

After finishing third during the normal season, the Redbacks bossed the game early on – Leota, captain Shawn Billam and Sophia Neal forcing Balcatta shot-stopper Gaby Dal Busco into action.

With the home crowd behind them, Balcatta soon grew into the contest but struggled to make Redbacks goalkeeper Kathleen Waycott work.

That all changed with virtually the final kick of the first half as Harvey found herself with some space inside the box to fire home and give her side a 1-0 lead heading into the break.

The goal gave Balcatta a new lease of life as they burst out of the blocks after the change of ends – Caitlin Doeglas and Gemma Craine threatening Waycott’s goal.

The Redbacks had an opportunity to square proceedings up but Alisha Bennett couldn’t hit the target after a fast break down the left wing.

The missed opportunity would prove costly as De Leo’s long-range free-kick caught Waycott off guard to double Balcatta’s advantage less than a minute later.

Now 2-0 down, the Redbacks needed to hit back immediately and they did as Leota’s thunderous strike set up a thrilling final half-an-hour.

As the game started to open up, chances started to come thick and fast – Harvey spurning a wonderful opportunity to regain her side’s two-goal cushion before Bennett’s looping header almost brought the Redbacks level.

With time running out on their season, the Redbacks committed bodies forward in hopes of an equalizer.

Last year’s runners-up created a flurry of opportunities in the dying stages, but it wasn’t to be – Leota missing two clear-cut opportunities before Larissa Walsh pushed her one-on-one effort wide as the Redbacks’ season came to an end.

“We’ve been working pretty hard at training the past two weeks – we seem to create so many opportunities in the game but can’t put the ball in the back of the net,” Redbacks coach Elisa D’Ovidio said.

“Balcatta went up a few times and put them in and we just didn’t.”

Balcatta 2 (Harvey 45min, De Leo 56’)
Northern Redbacks 1 (Leota 58’)
Grindleford Reserve
Kick-off: 12.30pm
Referee: Jess Byrd

Balcatta: 1. Gabby DAL BUSCO, 4. Cassandra HARVEY, 5. Kim MCCARTNEY, 6. Monique GODDING, (3. Tahlia D’OPERA 61’) 7. Epril NOSSENT, 8. Christiane ASTORP, 10. Caitlin DOEGLAS, 11. Gemma CRAINE, 13. Tessa DE LEO, 14. Ashleigh PANAIA, 17. Nadia HARVEY
Substitues not used: 2. Alanah VERONI, 12. Monique D’OPERA, 15. Kizanne MULDER
Yellow cards: Doeglas (66’)
Red cards: Nil

Northern Redbacks: 1. Kathleen WAYCOTT, 2. Jessica WHEATMAN, 3. Larissa WALSH, 6. Sophia NEAL (16. Alisha BENNETT 46’), 7. Kim CARROLL, 8. Shawn BILLAM, 9. Casey WEBB, 10. Katie MOTH, 11. Emily HENDERSON (12. Chloe ALAGA 75’), 14. Renee LEOTA, 15. Emily DUNN
Substitutes not used: 4. Ellie BLACKMORE, 13. Melanie DOUGLAS
Yellow cards: Wheatman (84’)
Red cards: Nil