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Latest NPWL match report 2
"Hoops" Hit Hamilton For Six To Go Fourth
by Jeremy Ruane
Western Springs continued their recent form revival at Seddon Fields on May 21, seeing off Hamilton Wanderers 6-1 to climb into fourth place on the Lotto Northern Premier Women's League table.

Ahead after just five minutes - Maisy Dewell's accomplished finish past Sophie Daly came about upon receipt of Emily Cooper's cross, "The Hoops" were swiftly into their stride, with the exceptionally performed Dayna Manak pulling the strings from the heart of midfield.

She linked with Dewell in the eighth minute, with the game's lone goalscorer to this point picking out Lauren Mathis with a cross. Daly dashed off her line to block at the striker's feet, with the ball ricocheting back off Mathis and just over the bar.

Referee Wendy McNeely initially awarded a corner - one of a number of calls she got wrong in this match, with the honesty of both teams' players the source of a number of changes to the initial decision, this being one of them.

It didn't help Hamilton too much on this occasion, as from Daly's goal-kick, Dewell and fullback Jenna Dodds worked an opening on the right which culminated in Rebecca O'Neill lashing the ball home from ten yards - 2-0, with just nine minutes on the clock.

Only a fine one-handed save by Daly prevented Mathis from increasing the lead still further three minutes later, while Manak and Cooper, who combined to create that opportunity, linked up again seconds afterwards, the latter stinging the goalkeeper's gloves from fifteen yards on the angle.

Hamilton weren't at the races at this point, and you began to fear the floodgates might open were "The Hoops" to bag another one in the very near future. They should have had the chance to do so from the penalty spot, but referee McNeely ruled no handball offence had occurred at the conclusion of a lovely one-touch passing interchange involving Jolene Muir, O'Neill, Mathis, Manak and the overlapping Sam Muirhead.

Visiting coach Steven Cox called a tactical change to aid his team's cause, switching Leanna Ryan from left back (despite her attacking attributes) to right midfield, where she was instantly called into action, working an opening for Kim-E Maguire, only for Ashleigh Emery to save at her feet.

Springs' keeper has had more than a few problems dealing with a steepling effort directed on target this season, and in the 25th minute, Chelsea Elliott decided to try that angle of attack, with great reward, the ball arcing over Emery's flailing fingertips before dropping in by the far post.

The goal gave Hamilton's morale a huge boost, and after O'Neill had fired wide in the aftermath of a lobbed ball into the area by Dewell, they came desperately close to equalising.

Grace Cox's free-kick was played to Jayden Watts, and Maddison Ollington was invited to scamper downfield at pace, a feat she enhanced by bringing Britney Cunningham-Lee into play on the left.

The former Papatoetoe starlet cut inside before whipping in a cross to the far post, which Maxine Rawnsley was just a couple of strides away from getting on the end of.

It was a scare Springs heeded, for ten minutes before half-time, they restored their two-goal cushion. Manak and Cooper again worked the opening, this time in conjunction with Muirhead, who lofted a ball in to Mathis on the edge of the area.

The former age-grade international had plenty of work to do, but accomplished it with aplomb, briefly holding the ball up to draw Cox in towards her before swivelling to deliver a delicious volleyed lob over Daly and just under the bar - a cracking goal which any striker would be proud of!

Hamilton wouldn't go away, however, and in Elliott they boasted one of the game's best-performed players. Five minutes after the goal, she won the ball in midfield and sent Maguire powering towards goal. The New Caledonian international slipped a pass through to play Ryan in, but Emery saved well at her feet.

Back came Springs in the shadows of the half-time whistle, with Dewell catching Ollington in possession and instantly bringing Mathis into play. She laid the ball back to O'Neill, whose shot was tipped away in fine style by Daly.

Early in the second half, Dewell hit the post - Daly thought it was going wide, and got quite a shock! She quickly redeemed herself, however, producing fine saves to deny O'Neill and Mathis, despite the latter having gone round her initially, Manak having presented the striker with the chance.

Springs weren't to be denied a fourth goal early in the second spell, however, and got it in the 53rd minute via O'Neill, who headed home Muirhead's superbly flighted corner to the far post to leave herself one shy of fifty goals for "The Hoops", a tally achieved in two spells with the club.

Straight from the kick-off, Hamilton stormed downfield, the fleet-footed Ryan leading the charge. She lashed one narrowly past the upright before Elliott went close with a twenty-five yard free-kick, forcing Emery into a sprawling save low to her right.

Emery then saved bravely at the feet of the flying figure of Ryan near the edge of her penalty area as she looked to exploit a Rawnsley pass in the 57th minute, after which Hamilton's bid to bag a second goal gradually lost its impetus.

Their cause wasn't aided by Watts' attempt to clear a Springs raid eight minutes later ricocheting off a team-mate straight to the feet of substitute Lily Rose Dyer, who gave Daly no chance from ten yards to make it 5-1.

After this goal, the contest began to drop in quality, in part due to the inconsistencies of referee McNeely's decisions, something from which both teams suffered. Frequent were the remonstrations of players with the official concerning calls which, in some cases, were clearly incorrect, but few were the instances when these complaints proved fruitful.

Every once in a while, something noteworthy would occur, such as twenty minutes from time, when O'Neill's flying close-range volley careered over the bar as she looked to get on the end of Cooper's free-kick.

Two minutes later, Jess Verdon sent Muir dashing through the offside trap on the left before evading a challenge and crossing beyond O'Neill to Dyer. Ollington blocked her effort to safety.

Six minutes from time, Elliott went on a delightful run down the right past four players. Looking up, she spotted Emery off her line, and went for a long-range special which, in truth, wasn't far away.

Two minutes later, Caitlyn Bloxham chanced her arm from thirty yards, forcing Emery to tip her shot to safety. But in between these efforts, "The Hoops" had scored their sixth goal of the afternoon.

Cooper sent substitute Melanie Gooch galloping through the inside left channel in pursuit of a deliciously weighted pass. Reaching it, this faithful NPWL campaigner - this is her seventeenth successive season at this level of the game - promptly swept into the penalty area and lifted the ball over the advancing figure of Daly into the far corner of the net for her first top-flight goal since Queen's Birthday weekend 2015.

Gooch's strike brought about the final 6-1 scoreline, a result which lifts "The Hoops" into fourth spot on the table. Hamilton, meanwhile, still have just a point to their name after six rounds, but in Ryan, Maguire, Cunningham-Lee, Rawnsley and Elliott, plus the injured Hannah Reid, they boast a solid core of players whose combined qualities should ensure they won't be winless for too much longer.

Springs:     Emery; Dodd, Steele, Verdon, Muir (Brown, 78); Cooper, Manak, Muirhead; Dewell (Dyer, 56), O'Neill, Mathis (Gooch, 56)
Hamilton:     Daly; Clarke (Ali, 52), Cox, Watts, Ollington; Bloxham, Elliott, Rawnsley (Peresson, 66); Ryan, Maguire (Goodwin, 70), Cunningham-Lee
Referee:     Wendy McNeely

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