Match Preview: Victory v Wanderers

Our Wander Women are on the road again in a huge away clash against the Melbourne Victory.

The girls come into the match off the back of a hard fought and crucial win against the Newcastle Jets in front of a massive crowd of 3,873 people in Bathurst on Friday night.

It took time for the Wanderers to adjust to the high intensity pressing from the Jets – who took an early lead – but Sophie Harding equalised with her ninth goal of the season just before half-time, before defender Vicky Bruce bagged her third goal of the season 11 minutes before the end of the match to end the Wanderers’ two game losing streak and take them back into the finals places

It was a bruising encounter where the visitors put in many strong challenges in the second half, but the Wanderers stood firm, and were given extra rewards for their efforts with many of the teams around them on the table failing to pick up three points, meaning they finished the weekend in fourth after starting in seventh place.

BATHURST, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 09: Vicky Bruce of the Wanderers (L) celebrates victory during the A-League Women round 16 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets at Carrington Park, on February 09, 2024, in Bathurst, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

One of these teams was their opponents this weekend, who were only able to draw on the road against the Central Coast Mariners, having to come from behind in a game that finished 1-1; both sides are level on points, but the Wanderers are ahead due to having won more games this season.

The Wanderers have tasted victory seven times this season, with one of these coming in the reverse fixture against the Victory in what was the sides last game of 2023.

It was a drought breaking night as the Wanderers won just their second ever game against Melbourne and their first in eight years with a stellar 2-0 win at Wanderers Football Park.

Captain Amy Harrison opened the scoring midway through the first half from a corner, before Alexia Apostolakis wrapped up the three points in the second half after finishing off a lovely counter attacking move from a Holly Caspers pass.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 30: Amy Harrison (2L) of the Wanderers celebrates with teammates after scoring the teams first goal during the A-League Women round 10 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory at Wanderers Football Park, on December 30, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

The Victory were on a difficult run then, with a loss the next week to Western United consigning them to three defeats on the spin.

They have recovered somewhat, being unbeaten in their five encounters, but only two have been wins, meaning the three-time champions are embroiled in a dogfight with five other teams for three of the six finals places on offer.

Chidiac has been impressive since her arrival, and the key attacking threat has been Rachel Lowe, who has nine goals in the season so far.
They have had injury issues, with starting goalkeeper and Matildas legend Lydia Williams currently out with an ankle injury requiring surgery, with Courtney Newbon stepping up in her place.

The Wanderers will be hoping Bethany Gordon will soon be fit to play after she has spent an extended period of time on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury, though the midfield duo of Apostolakis and Olivia Price has performed well in her absence.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 30: Alexia Apostolakis of the Wanderers scores the teams second goal whilst under pressure Jamilla Rankin of the Victory during the A-League Women round 10 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory at Wanderers Football Park, on December 30, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

The most important due for the Wanderers is that of Harding and Caspers, with the latter notching up a sixth assist last weekend for Harding’s goal; she also has three goals to her name in what has been a standout season for the attacker.

The Wanderers will need to overturn history once again this weekend, as they have never defeated the Victory away from home; last season they fell to a 3-1 defeat, with Sophie Harding’s solo goal not being enough as two goals in the final 10 minutes secured the win for Melbourne.

A win would see them keep their place in the top four, whilst also potentially closing the game to the teams above depending on if results go their way once again.