WHEN the Western NSW Mariners walked out onto the field at Lisarow’s Pluim Park on Sunday, they knew the Central Coast Mariners Academy would provide them with a formidable challenge.
It was a challenge they certainly got, Western going down 4-1 in the first match of their Football NSW Women’s NPL 2 season.
A restructure of the Football NSW competitions this season means last year’s State League runners-up Western will be facing opposition who played a tier above them in 2013.
They are still hoping to be competitive and improve their standard as the 2014 season unfolds, but Western coach Tony Clancy admitted Central Coast were just a class above in Sunday’s contest.
“Give credit where credit is due, they were class across the whole field. They were very sharp and very fit,” Clancy said.
“Obviously we didn’t really have an idea of how strong they would be and if they had picked up any players in the off-season, but they were sharp and you could see they had played together for a long time.
“You never like to get beaten 4-1, but it showed us where we need to be quality-wise and fitness-wise.”
It was the hosts who started the contest stronger and controlled the first 15 minutes of the match.
While Western settled after this and proved more competitive, a Central Coast goal just before the break and a second five minutes after half-time put the visitors on the back foot.
From there Western tried to play a more attacking style of football, but that made them vulnerable to the quick break and they conceded another goal.
“As a team they broke in numbers and they broke so fast, they scored three of their goals that way,” Clancy said.
However, Western continued to try hard and were rewarded with around 15 minutes to go. It was a piece of individual brilliance from Megan Embleton that saw them open their account as she beat two players then fired in a left-footer from 25 yards out.
While Western did create other half chances when working the ball through the midfield quickly, Central Coast were strong in defence.
The hosts managed to score once more as full-time approached, putting the final score at 4-1.
Still, Clancy found it hard to fault the effort of his players against a quality opponent.
“I think the commitment and the heart we showed was good, but we turned over a lot of ball and against a very fit side that made it hard on us,” he said.
“But the heads were still up after full-time. We know what we need to fix, a bit more fitness and possession, and those aren’t hard to fix. It’s only game one out of 21 for us.”
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 4 (Jayme Fressard 2, Jessica Dominello, Natalie Waddell) def WESTERN NSW MARINERS FC 1 (Megan Embleton)