Box Hill Inter put its recent run of poor form behind it with a 2-0 victory over Ashburton at Wembley Park on Friday night. Inter went into the game on the back of three straight defeats, having lost its key clash with Sandringham on Monday night in dramatic fashion. Box Hill had taken the lead midway through the first half through Amanda Lawless, and was on track to collect all three points, but two goals in the last six minutes of the match from Sarah White and Emma Runnalls turned the game on its head. There was no such drama on Friday night, however, as Lawless was again on target, scoring twice in the second half to guide Inter to its ninth win of the season. The result keeps Inter firmly on track for the finals, and it finishes the round in third position on the ladder. For Ashburton, the defeat could ultimately have serious implications, as it now finds itself in fifth, four points outside the finals, with just three games to play. With its next encounter being a tough clash against another finals contender, Sandringham, Ashburton may find itself missing out on finals for the first time.
Sandringham kept itself in the hunt for the finals with two strong victories in the space of a week, which have enabled it to stay in touch with the top four. Having stolen the points from Box Hill on Monday night, Sandringham backed up on Sunday afternoon to comfortably defeat bottom side GRFA at Howard Glover Reserve. The game was all over bar the shouting by half time, with four of the visiting side’s goals coming before the interval. Keryn Walters scored twice, with Michelle Parton, Ashley Good and an own goal rounding out the scoring. Sandringham is now just one point behind fourth-placed Casey, with three games to play, although it still has tough matches against Ashburton and South Melbourne to go. Things are looking increasingly bleak for GRFA, which remains at the foot of the ladder, two points and a huge goal difference away from safety, and with both of its remaining games being against top four opposition.
Heidelberg United bounced back quickly from last weekend’s defeat at Ashburton to see off Preston Lions in the local derby at Olympic Village. The home side scored three first half goals to all but lock up the points before half time, and then it added another after the break to wrap up a 4-0 victory. Tyla Vlajnic scored twice, with Rita Mankowska and Julia Nicolaci also getting on the scoresheet. The result propels Heidelberg to the top of the WPL ladder, level on points with South Melbourne, but with a superior goal difference. With two of its remaining three games being against the bottom two sides, it would seem to be the team most secure of its position in the top four. Preston, after its seventh defeat of the season, remains seventh.
South Melbourne and Casey Comets met in a crucial match at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday, with the result being vital to both sides’ finals aspirations. It was South who emerged the happier from the encounter, running out 4-1 winners on the back of a strong first half display. The home side took the lead five minutes into the game, with Aimee Benton scoring from the penalty spot. Casey pulled level through Nicola Prins on the quarter hour, but Laura Spiranovic put South back ahead almost immediately. Benton then increased the advantage with her second five minutes later. Both sides had chances throughout the match, but only Spiranovic was able to find a way through, grabbing her second, and South’s fourth, five minutes from time. The result puts South in the box seat to qualify for finals for the first time, as it climbs to 27 points, level with top side Heidelberg. Casey, which faces two of the top four in its three remaining games, drops to fourth, one points ahead of fifth-placed Sandringham.
Round 16 gets underway at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve when Bendigo Vipers takes on Heidelberg United on Saturday afternoon. It’s the start of a big weekend for Bendigo, which then has to back up on Sunday afternoon to play its rescheduled Round 12 clash with Casey Comets at the same venue. Also on Sunday, in regular Round 16 games, Preston Lions hosts Box Hill Inter at BT Connor Reserve, while at Ashburton Park, Ashburton and Sandringham will both be battling hard to save their finals chances. The final match of the round pits GRFA against South Melbourne at Howard Glover Reserve.