The Ballarat Eureka Strikers are now in control of where they will finish on the ladder this season. The Eureka Strikers’ 6-1 demolition of Cairnlea coupled with University of Melbourne’s 1-1 draw against Keilor Park mean that if the Eureka Strikers can keep winning they will be crowned champions at the end of the season.
That will be no small challenge; but the draw is in the Eureka Strikers favour with three home games in the last five games, all against teams that they drew with earlier in the season. It starts next week against Brighton; who have proven to be unpredictable so far this season. This is followed by another home game against Preston before the rescheduled game against Yarra Jets, away to North Geelong and then home in the last game of the season, which could be the title decider against University of Melbourne.
Throughout the run-in to the end of the season the emphasis will be on maintaining focus and control.
The game against Cairnlea demonstrated the importance of both these elements. After taking an early lead through a Tessa Curtain free kick, the Eureka Strikers briefly lost focus for a segment of the first half. The result was an equaliser, and it briefly looked like the Eureka Strikers were in for a tough battle. Curtain scored her second, a header from a Lulu Al-Huneidi corner at the end of the half.
The focus at half-time was about re-establishing control over the game. The first couple of minutes of the second half the Eureka Strikers looked sluggish, but against the run of play a terrific ball by Hannah Kozaris was flicked on by Alyson Pym into the path of Al-Huneidi, who beat the goalkeeper. From that point on Cairnlea looked defeated and the Eureka Strikers went on a rampage with Pym netting two, and Al-Huneidi grabbing another.
Holly Williamson was outstanding in the first half; repelling numerous attacks by Cairnlea single handled, while her partner in the centre of defence Millie Martin was also a commanding presence. Erin Plucke continued her strong run of form; launching numerous attacks from the right hand side of defence, with Nat Barbara providing a number of telling balls into the box from right midfield. The progress of both of these youngsters in the past few weeks has been exciting.
Earlier in the day the development squads game was called off early in the second half due to inclement weather; the Eureka Strikers were leading 2-0 at the time.