Balcatta win NPL Night Series final thriller

Balcatta claimed their maiden silverware in the NPLWA - Women's era as they downed Murdoch University Melville 2-1 in Sunday's Night Series final at Macedonia Park.

In a game which was a fantastic curtain-raiser for the 2021 league season, Balcatta were right out of the blocks and stormed into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes with goals from Kimberley McCartney and Cassandra Harvey.

The 2020 champions looked stunned for most of the first half. But they stepped it up after the interval and after Thalia Organ reduced the arrears on 57 minutes it was all to play for. 

That MUM FC were unable to take the final to penalties was through no want of trying, Tia Stonehill going closest in stoppage time when her direct free-kick struck the crossbar.

Balcatta's Monique Godding took the Tracy Wheeler Medal as Player of the Match and the result wrapped up a terrific Night Series competition for Balcatta and new head coach Tim Cash, who has set a high bar heading into the new campaign.

Like with most finals, supporters would have been hoping for an early spark to get things going and it came in only the fourth minute. Balcatta were awarded a free-kick just outside the area and McCartney curled a brilliant free-kick past the flying MUM FC keeper Zara Board.

MUM FC were almost on terms when Stonehill pulled the ball across the face of the goal and the inrushing Rachel Gillies narrowly missed the ball and instead crashed into the post.

Thankfully the midfielder was okay but not for long as Balcatta went down the other end and went two up. A high ball into the area was allowed to bounce and Harvey proved too strong for Rosie Lehane before swivelling and firing past Board at her near post.

Just before half-time Board kept Murdoch in the game when she turned Harvey's shot around her near post, and within two minutes of the restart the MUM FC keeper produced an even better stop from the same player as she tipped over Harvey's audacious 30-yard chip.

Sadie Lawrence then tried her luck from distance for MUM FC and wasn't far off before Organ showed the pair how it was done with a brilliant chip which sailed over Gabi Dal Busco in the Balcatta goal to halve the deficit.

Murdoch sensed they could still salvage something from the game and went all out for the equaliser. Lawrence curled a free-kick straight into the arms of Dal Busco, while the outstanding Stonehill worked enough space in the area to get her shot off but again the Balcatta keeper was equal to the task.

Stonehill then got in front of Dal Busco to meet a cross but could only guide her header wide, before deep in injury time the MUM FC striker planted a free-kick on to the top of crossbar and, much to Balcatta's relief, the ball bounced to safety.

Balcatta win NPL Night Series final thriller
Balcatta, led by skipper Gabi Dal Busco, celebrate their Night Series success against MUM FC. Photo by Football West/FotoEnzo