The Ballarat Eureka Strikers secured their second win on the road with a 3-1 victory over Melbourne Knights. The Eureka Strikers were hit by the late withdrawal of Tess Meaden due to illness and had to restructure as a result, with 50 gamer Erin Plucke switching to left back, Lily McLean slotting in at right back and Claire Demuth playing right midfield. It looked like things were going to get worse when Holly Williamson, struggling with a hip complaint, was isolated early on and struggled to get back.
However, similar to last week, the Eureka Strikers started the game with attacking intent and hit the front soon after Williamson’s withdrawal when Lulu Al-Huneidi found Alyson Pym at the back post, who slotted home from five yards. Pym doubled the lead 5 minutes later with an audacious shot from 30 yards out which sailed over the goal keepers head. Al-Huneidi then extended the Eureka Strikers lead when she took on two Knights defenders, cutting back on to her left foot to power a shot home.
Williamson was able to come back into the game and was refashioned as a central midfielder. This turned out to be a stroke of luck as the Eureka Strikers had gone into game knowing that it was going to be a physical encounter and Williamson’s presence in the midfield helped to counter the long balls by applying pressure throughout. Herself and Tessa Curtain were able to strike up a partnership that controlled the midfield, while Hannah Kozaris moved into the centre of defence. Melbourne Knights were starved for opportunities throughout the first half and for most of the second half, with Millie Martin playing a central role in managing the defensive line proactively and Plucke, McLean and Georgia Morgan willing to attack the ball.
In the 55th minute the Eureka Strikers had another scare when Curtain picked up a knee injury. Initial tests have been inconclusive and the Strikers will be eager for a diagnosis early this week to put fears to rest.
Despite the loss of a key player the Eureka Strikers continued to fight hard and the Knight’s consolation goal in the 80th minute came against the run of play.
This was a scrappier encounter than the previous week, with Melbourne Knight’s being far more aggressive than Eltham. Despite the step up in challenge the Eureka Strikers’ key structures stood up to the test and they were particularly good in winning the ball back quickly throughout the game. For the second week in a row the younger players; Plucke, McLean, Morgan, Demuth and Vanessa Yung stood up to the challenges they faced; and the squad should continue to grow in confidence as a result.