Courtney Norman masterclass in goal sets up Marist win
One of the best goal-keeping displays seen by any Manawatu player helped set up Palmerston North Marist's impressive 4-1 win over fellow second-placed Capital W League side Wellington United at Memorial Park on Saturday.
The win keeps Marist two points behind league leader Upper Hutt (24 points) with Wellington now third on 19 points.
In a tight game until a three-goal burst in the final 20 minutes, Courtney Norman pulled off a series of saves to keep her side level with Wellington.
Norman made at least five fantastic reactionary saves, as well as stopping a barrage of crosses in the second half.
Marist coach Simon Lees agreed that Norman's performance was the standout of the game for his side.
"Absolutely Courtney was our player of the day which is a pretty impressive effort when you beat one of the top sides and play so well on attack," Lees said. "Courtney is a confidence player who has improved so much for us."
There were plenty of other strong performances with defenders Amber Phillips and Molly Woodhead outstanding in halting Wellington in the middle of the defence.
How Phillips hasn't made the national under-20 team is a mystery to many in the Central region, but Lees, while disappointed for Phillips, must be pleased she is still available.
"Amber is the class defender in the league and along with Molly I think they're the best defensive pairing in the country."
While players from both sides fired wayward passes, Marist captain and midfielder Leah Gallie remained calm, knocking pinpoint passes forward to strikers Tilly James and TJ Lyne-Lewis, who Lees opted to swap positions, with Lyne-Lewis going out wide and James moving into the middle.
Gallie injured her hamstring before the end of the game and Lees will be sweating on her availability.
Wellington dominated the first 20 minutes, scoring a deserved goal.
That seemed to fire Marist into action and Mikaela Boxall equalised before the break after a handball by Wellington in their goal area.
Boxall grabbed another penalty after a trip in the Wellington goal area with youngsters Kate Mori and Aniela Jensen scoring well-taken goals.
Marist can't complain about the referee they had on Saturday with one of the best whistle blowers in the region, Antony Riley, taking control of the game.
In a quality game that merited a top referee, Riley let play flow, but rightly didn't put up for times wasting booking players from both sides.
■ Marist's run in the men's Central League came to an end when they were beaten 3-0 by Napier City Rovers in Napier.
After close scoreless first spell, Marist couldn't contain Angus Kilkolly in the second half, with Kilkolly scoring twice within five minutes midway through the second half.
Josh Stevenson scored a third goal late for Napier.
The loss still keeps Marist precariously placed second to bottom.
Bottom side Lower Hutt City lost 2-1 to Stop Out, while fellow struggler Team Taranaki had a surprising 6-0 win at Miramar Rangers
■ In the Federation League, Massey couldn't capitalise on their chances, losing 3-1 to Wanganui Athletic, where Luke Breyton scored Massey's goal.
In the other game, Red Sox-Manawatu was beaten 2-0 by Marist Reserves at Skoglund Park, with Marist's goals scored by James Satherley and an own goal.