Western Springs finally got their first Lotto Northern Premier Women's League win of the season at a well-lit Becroft Park on April 21, edging Forrest Hill-Milford United 1-0 in a fast-paced encounter between two teams who were perhaps playing a little too fast at times for their capabilities.
This was not a match which will be remembered for its quality. Instances of poor control and rushed or mis-directed or over-hit passes were far too commonplace for comfort's sake, meaning there was plenty of perspiration but not a lot of inspiration to reward the gathered throngs who braved Auckland's notorious Friday night traffic to witness "The Swans"' first night match of the season.
The driving runs of United's Malia Steinmetz were the outstanding feature of the first few minutes of the contest, the first of which saw her fire one narrowly over the bar, while the second culminated in Jasmine Waldren being splendidly tackled by Chelsey Alexander (nee Wood) in the act of shooting in the fifth minute.
This resulted in a Hannah Reddy corner, and following the ensuing scramble, shots from Waldren and Chloe Wilson were blocked to safety as "The Swans" looked to get on top early on in this battle between two teams at the wrong end of the table early on in the campaign.
This was a game "The Hoops" simply had to win, and in the thirteenth minute, they scored what proved to be the only goal of the game with their first attack. Lauren Mathis accelerated clear on the left before playing a pass which invited Maisy Dewell to dash through the inside left channel.
This she did with gusto, going on to round the advancing Emily Couchman before firing the ball into the untended net, despite Wilson's best efforts to chase it down prior to it crossing the line.
United took a while to recover after this blow, with Springs containing them well, while looking to pounce on the break themselves, a tactic they employed well in the 26th minute, as Dayna Manak, Harriet Steele and Sam Muirhead combined to good effect. Mathis' long-range effort flew across the face of goal.
Five minutes later, a Waldren interception resulted in Sammi Tawharu getting her first chance to make an impact on the match. She quickly brought Reddy into play before dashing forward to receive a return pass, one which would have found her in a dangerous spot had Manak not tracked back to thwart the threat.
After Reddy had sent a twenty-yarder flying narrowly past Ashleigh Emery's right-hand post, the 'keeper - who has clearly been working hard on all aspects of her game after Springs' first games of the campaign - saved well at the feet of Reddy in the 39th minute following Saskia Vosper's strong run down the right.
Five minutes later, fine work by Steinmetz near the corner flag saw her account for three Springs' challengers before looking to set up Reddy. Liz Anton's intervention saw the ball break for Wilson, whose low twenty-five yard drive through a crowded goalmouth was well saved by Emery.
Reddy went close again before half-time, while two minutes into the second spell, Vosper cleared the ball off the line to deny Mathis, who had rounded Couchman on receipt of a fine through ball from
Vosper and Steinmetz both went close to equalising inside the next six minutes, before the combined efforts of Rebecca O'Neill and Mathis to carve out a second goal for the visitors were thwarted by the combined efforts of Vosper and Aneka Mittendorff, who performed solidly in the home team's rearguard.
Before departing the fray with an injury, Vosper chanced her arm from twenty-five yards in vain, but Springs were generally containing their opponents well, restricting United to long-range efforts at best.
As well, "The Hoops"' passing was far better co-ordinated in this half, the wiser, more experienced heads among the visitors employing that nous to good effect against opponents whose concede plenty to their rivals on that score.
The sight of Jess Verdon entering the fray half-way through the second half only served to emphasise how well served Springs are where quality, mature, character-laden footballers are concerned.
Captain Wilson, though just 22, is the only player who ticks those boxes in "The Swans"' squad, and she it was to whom United turned thirteen minutes from time, as their need for an equaliser grew ever greater.
After Anton had intervened to prevent Tawharu and substitute Lily Jervis from combining to good effect, United's fullback put everything she had into a twenty-five yard piledriver of a free-kick which caused pandemonium aplenty in Springs' goalmouth.
O'Neill eventually cleared the danger, but soon after, a hanging cross from Mittendorff gave Springs cause for alarm, particularly given Emery's unsuccessful experiences in dealing with such deliveries to date this season.
This time, she had Milly McWhirter on her case as well, but Emery dealt with the danger with elan, following it up by dealing capably with a cross-shot from Casey Klyn as Tawharu and Jervis closed menacingly.
Springs hadn't given up hope of putting the game to a bed via a second goal, with Dewell forcing a save from Couchman in between Emery's denials. Five minutes from time, Muirhead sent a dipping thirty-yarder narrowly over the bar, while Mathis fired narrowly wide from close range soon after, Muirhead and Cooper having combined for the former Junior Fern's benefit.
It was last chance saloon time for "The Swans" now, and in the final minute, Mittendorff and Klyn combined on the right to engineer an opening at the near post. Tawharu was the target, but she had been well contained by Alexander all evening, a situation which remained unchanged as the Springs stalwart headed clear to confirm this very welcome win for the visitors.
United: Couchman; Vosper (Klyn, 68), Mittendorff, Martin (Flynn, 60), Wilson; McWhirter, Johnson, Steinmetz; Reddy, Tawharu, Waldren (Jervis, 68)
Springs: Emery; Dodd, Anton, Alexander, Steele (Verdon, 64); Cooper, Manak (Dyer, 64), Muirhead; Dewell (Muir, 83), O'Neill, Mathis
Referee: Taqi Ekhlasi