The Wellington Phoenix reserves have delivered a much-improved showing in the third round of the women’s National League Championship.
The Phoenix reserves have been beaten 3-0 by Eastern Suburbs at Fraser Park in Lower Hutt but were far from outclassed by the reigning champions.
Suburbs were kept scoreless in the second half and the young Nix created more opportunities than they did in last week’s heavy defeat to Southern United.
Former Phoenix forward Charlotte Lancaster bagged a first half brace for the visitors after Suburbs captain Nicole Mettam opened the scoring with a quality long-range strike in just the fourth minute.
Phoenix coach Katie Barrott made three changes to her starting XI, with Emily Humphrey, Phoebe Hawes and Ellie Johnson coming into the side in place of Libby McMillan, Kyra Elder and Alyssa Eglinton. Humphrey and Johnson were named to make their national league debuts for the reserves.
The young Nix started positively from the opening kick-off, but found themselves a goal down inside five minutes when Mettam’s shot from outside the box picked out the top corner of the reserves’ goal.
Suburbs had to wait another 25 minutes before they doubled their lead with Lancaster pouncing on a moment’s hesitation from the Phoenix defence and finding the back of the net.
The former New Zealand U-20 international made it 3-0 a few moments later with a trademark long-range strike of her own.
The Phoenix reserves limited Eastern Suburbs’ attacking opportunities for the remaining hour and threatened themselves on the counter-attack, with Georgie Furnell coming closest to pulling a goal back.
Barrott was able to clear her bench in the second half, bringing on Eglinton, McMillian, Mackenzie Greene, Gigi Freeman and 14-year-old Eliza Vincent, who was cheered on to the pitch as she made her national league debut.
Vincent impressed in her cameo and fizzed a free-kick narrowly over the Suburbs goal with what was ultimately the final kick of the game.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Wellington Phoenix reserves next week. Next Saturday they will visit Kate Sheppard Cup winners Western Springs.
Wellington Phoenix reserves: 22. Charlotte EAGLE (gk), 2. Rebekah TREWHITT (24. Libby MCMILLAN 82nd), 4. Marie GREEN, 9. Ella MCCANN, 12. Ella MCMILLAN (c), 13. Grace BARTLETT, 17. Georgie FURNELL, 21. Emily HUMPHREY (25. Mackenzie GREENE 82nd), 26. Ellie JOHNSON (14. Alyssa EGLINTON 65th), 31. Phoebe HAWES (38. Gigi FREEMAN 82nd), 40. Sienna CANDY (43. Eliza VINCENT 85th).
Eastern Suburbs: 1. Brooke BENNETT(gk), 2. Kenya BROOKE (4. Kate WILLIAMSON 69th), 3. Erinna WONG, 5. Charlotte LANCASTER (9. Hayley MILLER 62nd), 10. Zoe BENSON, 11. Aimee ATKINS, 12. Charlotte WILFORD CARROLL (20. Hannah SAXON 69th), 14. Ella FINDLAY, 18. Saki YOSHIDA, 21. Nicole METTAM (c) (15. Olivia ERSKINE 62nd), 23. Emily GILLION.
Unused substitutes: 25. Caelan TREMAIN (gk).
21. Nicole METTAM (Eastern Suburbs) – 4th
5. Charlotte LANCASTER (Eastern Suburbs) – 28th & 31st