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Redbacks Leave It Late

Video highlights of the goals.

A dramatic last-minute equaliser by teenage debutant Olivia Woods earned Redbacks a deserved point in their NPLW round 1 clash against NTC at Ashfield on Sunday.

After a disappointing night series tournament, coach Carlos Vega Mena was looking to his side to have a solid start to the league campaign against the always dangerous NTC.

Redbacks started nervously, and there was a goalmouth scramble in the 1st minute that was eventually cleared by Emily Dunn. The side then settled down and started to move the ball around with the front three of Lauren Continbali, Jayna Ridley and Larry Walsh causing headaches for the NTC defence.

In the 8th minute, a period of pressure in the Redbacks penalty area resulted in the referee awarding a spot-kick for NTC, but Maya Diederichsen was able to save the kick to keep the scores level.

Redbacks thought they had taken the lead in the 13th minute when Ridley was played through by Dunn, and she took it in her stride to finish with confidence. Despite no flag being raised, the NTC bench was adamant that Ridley was offside and persuaded the linesman to speak to the referee. He then took her advice on board and overruled the goal.

NTC then took the lead in the 21st minute when a mix up in the penalty area allowed them to score through Judy Connolly. This spurred Redbacks on to exert even more pressure, with Ridley again going close in the 36th minute.

In the 39th minute, they drew level when Walsh dispossessed NTC near the halfway line and played the ball into Ridley, who played a neat one-two to put Walsh clear and she finished nicely.

With Redbacks playing with more confidence they suffered an injury blow in the 40th minute. They had already lost skipper Shawn Billam earlier in the half and had to make another change when Continibali was on the end of a late challenge from behind which left her unable to continue.

The 2nd half saw Redbacks come flying out of the blocks and had 2 close chances within 2 minutes but couldn't convert.

In the 54th minute, the NTC regained the lead when they worked the ball down the right wing and a dangerous cross into the box was bundled over the line by Ella Lincoln. Goalkeeper Diederichsen was hurt trying to keep the ball out, and she required treatment from the physio before she could carry on.

Redbacks then upped the intensity and created numerous chances, with the best being from Walsh in the 62nd minute, when her clever chip beat the keeper but bounced off the post and back out.

By pressing forward, Redbacks left themselves open to counter attack and only a smart save by Diederichsen in the 75th minute kept the score to 2-1.

As the game entered the last 10 minutes, Walsh, Ridley and substitute Renee Leota all had chances to score, but they were denied by a combination of good keeping and poor finishing.

All the pressure had to tell though, and in the end Olivia Wood was the one to finally score the equalising goal. She created enough pressure to force a turn over about 10 metres outside the box and then took a few strides before hitting a low shot in the corner to beat the keeper and score her first ever goal in the NPLW.

A moment to savour for the youngster, and one that her team mates were quick to celebrate.

Olivia Wood celebrates her 1st NPLW goal - Image from Fotoenzo

Even though the goal was scored in stoppage time, Redbacks were still searching for a win and the increasingly nervous NTC defence was at full stretch until the referee blew his whistle in the 94th minute to end the game.

A good solid performance from the team and they will feel perhaps hard done by in only getting a draw, but defensive lapses and poor finishing cost them dearly and these areas will need to be improved on as the season progresses.

It was exciting to see so many young players on the pitch though, and the signs are there that the team is responding to coach Carlos Vega Mena's style and way of playing.

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