WILCATS: Camilia de Bono was one of many outstanding Wildcats.
WILCATS: Camilia de Bono was one of many outstanding Wildcats. Tim Edwards

Wildcats' five win a thriller

ON FRIDAY night the Spell & the Gypsy Collective Wildcats premier division team travelled to Lismore to do battle with the mighty Thistles. Bristling with former representative players, the Thistles women, who are perennial winners of the top rank competition in the region and currently top of the table, were going to be a difficult task for the Cats who needed a win to maintain their third spot on the ladder.

The game commenced at a cracking pace but to the surprise of the Thistles supporters, it was the team dressed in blue that cracked first with Byron Bay scoring in the first few minutes of the match. As if to demonstrate that the Cat's early goal was an aberration, Thistles struck back to re-establish parity. Only minutes later, Byron's defence was found wanting with a clever skip pass from the Thistles midfield finding their star left full-back, Brianna Gatt, completely unmarked on the wing. With a clear look at the goal, Gatt did not need an invitation to challenge the keeper. Her powerful shot whistled between the sticks into the top left-hand corner of the net leaving the Byron keeper with little chance.

With the score at 2-1 Thistles may have thought that with the correct order restored they would go on to thump the Wildcats. With the Lismore crew now knocking the ball around accurately and confidently the Bay's supporters might have worried that the Blues were about to cut loose as well. The Wildcats thought differently. With three more goals to the Cats before half time and another goal from the Thistles match officials were keept busy noting the score. Half time saw the Bay narrowly on top with the unlikely score of 4-3.

The first half had been full of out-and-out offence from both teams but it was the second half that produced some of the best premier division soccer of the season. Both defensive units dug in for a momentous fight with midfielders and forwards from both teams also committing themselves to fightfor every possession and every yard gained. Despite the ferocious interaction the game was not interrupted by unsportsmanlike fouls, dives or less than life-threatening injuries as soccer-lovers have witnessed in Russia, of late. It was (nearly) all good, clean, high quality soccer action.

The game was finally broken open with Alex Chakos making one of her patented blistering runs down left flank deftly handing the ball on to Zoe Corbett who was making an over-lapping run on her inside. With Corbett now one-on-one with the keeper, the Bay supporters knew the ball would soon be in the back of the net.

A 5-3 the final ten minutes was all about playing quality, mistake-free soccer for the Wildcats, to enable their first win against a Thistles team in many years.

Every Byron Bay player performed well on the evening. Particularly outstanding were Bella Leckie whose coolness under pressure and ability to turn a defensive situation into offence, at a moment's notice, and Alex Chakos who ran riot offensively on the Bay's left flank.