Northern Redbacks unbeaten start to the season came crashing to the ground on Sunday when closest neighbours Balcatta FC beat them 1-0 in a tight and absorbing contest at Grindleford Reserve.
Redbacks went into the game brimming with confidence after defeating title favourites MUM FC 3-1 in the previous round. They also welcomed back Sarah Carroll, Carla Bennett and Emily Dunn but were not quite at full strength as Renee Leota was missing due to an injury suffered at training in midweek.
They quickly settled down and were soon passing the ball with confidence and restricting the home team to just the odd half chance, which was dealt with by the impressive centre back pairing of Kim and Sarah Carroll.
Jacinta Coleman continued her excellent form so far this season, and with captain Shawn Billam biting into tackles the omens looked good for the league leaders to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
The first real chance of the game came in the 12th minute when Sarah Carroll played a ,long ball out of the defence that released Larissa Walsh into space , but she dragged her left foot shot wide. The league leaders continued to have the most of the game but this didn't mean Balcatta weren't without a threat and in the 21st minute Cassandra Harvey was released into space by a nice through ball by Carys Davis but the Balcatta striker couldn't keep her shot on target and it passed harmlessly by the far post.
A delightful back heeled passby Coleman in the 25th minute put Walsh free on the left, and her cross in to the box eluded the Balcatta defence but Lauren Continibali couldn't get her header on target.
Walsh was again involved 2 minutes later when she was put through by Bennett, but she must have left her shooting boots in the dressing room as her shot sailed high over the bar.
Balcatta again showed they were dangerous on the break in the 31st minute when they created a dangerous move that started on the left. With the Redbacks defence struggling to cover the ball was sent across to the waiting Ashleigh Panaia on the edge of the box. Kim Carroll recognised the danger and moved smartly to get just enough pressure on Panaia to force her to shoot over the bar.
In the second half Balcatta started with a much more positive attitude and forced Redbacks to defend for longer periods. They were using their right hand flank to switch play to great effect, and in the 62nd minute Harvey got the better of Emily Dunn to fire a shot into the side netting.
Redbacks were still pressing for the opening goal though, and in the 64th minute a miss hit shot by Grace Monteiro put Walsh into space but she put her left footed shot wide of the post.
The only goal of the game arrive in the 85th minute when Balcatta's Epril Nossent sent a ball into the box from the left hand side. It eventually found its way to the edge of the box on the opposite side where Panaia was waiting to pounce. Her first time shot eluded Maya Diederichsen in the Redbacks goal to the delight of the home side and its supporters.
Redbacks pushed for an equaliser in teh last few minutes but the Balcatta defence stayed compact and solid and when the referee's whistle blew the Balcatta players were understandably very happy.
The result means Redbacks stay at the top of the table, but the lead is cut to just 1 point now, with MUM FC breathing heavily down their neck.
Post game interview with Captain Shawn Billam