WPL: Merewether, Warners Bay win first legs of Herald Women's Premier League semi-finals

Minor premiers Warners Bay and defending champions Merewether hold the advantage heading into the home leg of their Herald Women’s Premier League semi-finals.

United beat New Lambton 1-0 at Alder Park on Saturday and the Panthers downed South Wallsend 2-1 at Walker Fields on Sunday.

It means the Eagles and the Wolves, who are both playing in their first WPL finals series, will chase wins in the return matches of the two-legged semi-finals.

If scores are level after two legs, the away goals rule will come into play where the team which has scored the most on the road progresses. If the score is still level then the game goes to extra time.

The game on Saturday came down to finishing.

New Lambton exposed the Merewether defence on numerous occasions and twice in the first half went one-on-one with goalkeeper Alison Logue without finding a goal. 

The winner came five minutes into the second half when Eagles goalkeeper Taylah Bryde miskicked a clearance and the ball landed at the feet of W-League striker Rhali Dobson, who took a touch then slotted into an open net.

It sparked the visitors but the Eagles continued to look the more dangerous without result.

Merewether coach Cassandra Koppen felt “we got out of jail, particularly in the first half”.

“We were happy to get the win and to be going into the second leg one-up but it was obviously not a great performance by us,” Koppen said.

Eagles coach Keelan Hamilton described it as a “frustrating” match.

“We had three times as many clear-cut chances and they barely had a shot on target until the goal,” Hamilton said. “We had one-on-ones and just didn’t take them. It was just a lack of the final bit of quality in the last moment to finish and at the end of the day that was the difference.”

Warners Bay took a 1-0 lead inside the first five minutes of their match when captain Nadja Squires scored from a free kick.

Beth Kermode came close to putting the Wolves on level terms on the 20-minute mark when her free kick hit the crossbar.

Toria Campbell extended the lead to 2-0 in the 32nd minute when she scored in a goalmouth scramble before a Panthers own goal in the 63rd minute breathed life into the Wolves attack.

The hosts finished the stronger side but were unable to find an equaliser.

Wolves coach Brad Parkes was “extremely encouraged” despite the loss.

“We had a lot of chances in the second half and deserved to get a lot more out of the game and there were a lot of positives to take into the next game,” Parkes said.

“They’re the best team in the competition and I thought we performed the same, if not better.” 

Warners Bay player-coach Cassidy Davis felt her side switched to defensive mode after scoring their second goal and said the focus at John Street Oval next weekend would be to “keep attacking”.

The winners over two legs meet in the grand final on August 26.