Despite Saturday’s Melbourne Derby defeat, Melbourne City captain Steph Catley is still confident that she and her teammates have what it takes to reach the W-League finals.
Though they had the best of the contest for all but the opening and concluding ten minutes, City suffered a heartbreaking, 1-0 defeat at the hands of their navy-blue rivals yesterday at Epping Stadium: Christine Nairn’s 88th minute strike stealing the win for the league leaders.
Nairn’s effort – as goals in Melbourne Derby fixtures at Epping Stadium are seemingly wont to be at this point – came right from the top drawer.
The 28-year-old American’s was, somehow, able to direct a corner past an assembled mass of bodies in the City penalty and nestle the ball inside the far post – before promptly being floored in a bearhug by Tash Dowie.
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“There’s wind behind the corner and it’s a shot cross and it goes in,” Catley recalled of the goal
“Christine’s got great technique and she’s always going to whip those ones in.
“We shouldn’t be giving away a corner that late in the goal.”
Despite the defeat, Catley expressed contentment with the efforts of her side; who on the balance of play would have rightly considered themselves worthy of taking at least a point away from the game.
“To be honest I thought we looked great,” the City captain explained
“I thought we played some brilliant football, some of our best.
“Obviously, we were missing the finish but we created some good chances too and we really limited theirs, so I think we were by far the better team today.
“We know that Tash is really great at hold the ball up in those situations and linking people in, so we definitely focused on that long ball into her and how we would defend that.
“I think we did it really well. I don’t think she had many shots on target or looked that dangerous like she usually does.
“In the end, we’re the losers in this situation but I think we were prepared and the game plan that we worked on all week worked really well, the way that we got forward, we just couldn’t finish.
“It’s one of those games.
“Footballs a funny game, we played terribly last week and ended up winning convincingly and then this week we play really well and lose at the death.
“It’s pretty hard to take but we go back to the drawing board and we keep pushing on and we’ve got three games left to make finals so that’s what we’ve got to do.
“I’m proud of the way the girls played and at this time of the year, if we keep playing like that, I don’t think there’s many more we’ll lose.”
Possessing a bye in round 13 of the season, City’s run to the finals will go through fourth-placed Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park in round 11, Newcastle Jets at C.B Smith Reserve in round 12 and conclude with a trip to face Sydney FC at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium in round 14.
With both Roar and Sydney FC key rivals in the pursuit of a finals berth, the games will carry a razor-thin margin of error for the three-time defending W-League champions.
Catley and City have been in this situation before, however, having snuck into finals in fourth place before eventually winning the championship in that past two seasons.
The Matildas’ favourite believes that this experience, combined with the talent assembled in Bundoora, means that they have what it takes to reach finals once again.
“I think we’ll look back and watch some of the stuff that we played today and be proud,” the 24-year-old right back explained
“I think there are a few things that we need to work on in the final third, our finishing and the final ball and a few things with our delivery.
“We sharpen that up – we’ve all got it in our locker so we just need to sharpen it up – and start finishing and I think we’ll be fine.
“Everything else looks pretty solid and I’m really confident the girls can get the job done next week.
“We’ve put ourselves in this situation the last few years, where it’s come down to the wire in terms of making finals, so we know what to do.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced players.
“It can be nervy at times but when it comes down to it it’s just football and we’ve got to do the best we can and hopefully we can get results.”