Coach Brad Parkes hoped the return of key player Gemma Pearce would spark South Wallsend’s season against New Lambton on Saturday.
And it did, with the former W-League player relishing a more attacking role and scoring a hat-trick as the Wolves overpowered high-flying New Lambton 6-5 in a see-sawing Herald Women's Premier League match at Alder Park.
South Wallsend, coming off a 7-2 midweek loss to last year’s minor premiers Warners Bay, were desperate for points and the hard-fought win breathed life back into their top-four aspirations.
Pearce, who had been unavailable since the Wolves’ last win in round six, usually plays at the back but Parkes injected her into midfield which steadied the side and gave them more punch in attack.
The win elevated South Wallsend to nine points and into fifth place ahead of Adamstown, who remained on seven points after going down 4-2 to ladder leaders Warners Bay at Adamstown Oval on Sunday.
“Before the game, I basically said to the girls that we had a lot of positives against Warners Bay but what hurt us was we just didn’t win those key moments,” Parkes said.
“But we competed a lot stronger and were in the game the whole way. It was a great fightback and a positive step forward.”
Going into the match, the Eagles had been the first team to fell giants Warners Bay this season, winning 4-2 in round nine.
They hosted South Wallsend in round 10 without key players Joey Burgess and Stacey Day but twice held a two-goal lead – 2-0 then 3-1 – in the first half before the Wolves levelled 3-3 going to the break.
Pearce’s former Jets teammate Tara Andrews was in ruthless form, bagging four goals for the Eagles, who were left wondering post-match how they could score five goals and lose.
New Lambton coach Keelan Hamilton described it as “a weird game of football” and said his side were “defensively poor from front to back”.
The two sides went goal for goal in the second half before Pearce found the matchwinner off a free kick in the dying moments of the game.
Erin Wilson, Maryjane Mason and Olivia Kennedy also got on the scoresheet for South Wallsend and Georgia Amess scored New Lambton’s opening goal.
Parkes said it was a crucial win ahead of another tough test next round against second-placed Merewether (19 points), who beat fourth-placed Wallsend (13) 3-0 at Wallsend Oval on Sunday.
United led 2-0 at the break after set-piece specialist Jamee Ellis scored from a free kick and Melbourne City’s Rhali Dobson scored the first of her match double.
Merewether coach Cass Koppen said “it wasn’t pretty but we got the result”.
Jets striker Jenna Kingsley produced a first-half hat-trick and Sophie Stapleford also scored before the break as Warners Bay (22) led 4-0 at half-time. Annika D’Amico and Belle Hewitt scored for Rosebud.
The hosts lost goalkeeper Olivia Sneddon in the first minutes of the match to a leg injury and had to use defender Courtney Wiltshire in goals as they did not have a replacement shot-stopper.
Adamstown are set to welcome the return of strike weapon Lauren Allan this week from playing college football in the United States.
Round 10 results:
South Wallsend 6 (Gemma Pearce 3, Maryjane Mason, Erin Wilson, Olivia Kennedy) defeated New Lambton 5 (Tara Andrews 4, Georgia Amess) at Alder Park on Saturday. Half-time: 3-3.
Warners Bay 4 (Jenna Kingsley 3, Sophie Stapleford) defeated Adamstown 2 (Annika D’Amico, Belle Hewitt) at Adamstown Oval on Sunday. Half-time: Warners Bay led 4-0.
Merewether 3 (Rhali Dobson 2, Jamee Ellis) defeated Wallsend 0 at Wallsend Oval. Half-time Merewether led 2-0.
Points: Warners Bay 22, Merewether 19, New Lambton 17, Wallsend 13, South Wallsend 9, Adamstown 7, Thornton 0.