Shellharbour FC secured the Illawarra Women’s Premier League First Grade title with a 2-0 extra-time victory over league champions Woonona Sharks at Ian McLennan Park on Sunday afternoon.
Ariana Fleming and Nikola Wilson scored the goals in an historic win for the team.
The Sharks looked to make an early impression in the fixture. Nine minutes in, Jessica Beale showed a sign of things to come, taking on a first-time effort from outside the box that cleared the bar. Beale was involved again four minutes later, turning neatly on the edge of the box and playing in Lindsay McLeod, whose consequent shot went straight at Shellharbour goalkeeper Alana Smith.
Shellharbour immediately took the ball down the other end with Fleming’s volley from outside the area bouncing to Woonona stop stopper Ivana Peric.
Woonona continued to cause problems for their opponents as the lively Beale lined up another shot, but this time Smith was forced to make the save.
It looked inevitable that the Sharks would hit the front but Smith’s confident goalkeeping kept Shellharbour in the match.
Shellharbour almost made Woonona pay for this series of missed opportunities 27 minutes in when a left-sided corner dropped to Katelyn Leadbeatter in the middle, but she shovelled a glorious chance over.
The Sharks should have scored themselves with ten first-half minutes to play when Sienna Humphrey’s superb curling cross from the right found the head of Sinead Bailey, who nodded wide from close in. They conjured up one more chance in injury time as Bailey found Beale on the edge of the box, but the forward’s strike was well-saved by Smith.
Despite an entertaining first half, the scores remained locked at 0-0.
The second half began more patiently, with neither side getting many shots off early on.
In the 57th minute, Woonona’s Nikita Woods attempted a lob from the edge of the box that dropped just wide of the right post.
Shellharbour came forward seven minutes later as Wilson sprinted in on goal down the left, but Peric batted the shot away.
Woonona had the opportunity to open the scoring from a central free-kick in the 78th minute. Beale stepped up and sent a powerful strike flying just over the bar.
The teams couldn’t find the winning goal in what remained, sending the match to extra time.
It was a tense opening half of extra time, but in stoppage time, Shellharbour fired home the opener. A right-sided cross wasn’t dealt with by Peric, and Fleming made the most of it, smashing the ball into the vacant net.
Shellharbour put the result beyond all doubt in the second half of extra time when Wilson latched onto a ball into the left channel and executed an audacious lob that caught Peric out, bouncing into the net.
Beale had another shot late on, striking the crossbar in another opportunity that went begging for the Sharks.
Shellharbour went on to claim the inaugural Women’s Premier Leagues First Grade trophy.
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Graham Brown