Match Preview: Wanderers v Victory

The Wanderers’ A-League Women’s side will look to return to winning ways in a tough home match against the Melbourne Victory on Saturday evening.

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The Wander Women’s strong form was halted with a close 1-0 defeat at home to Adelaide United in their last fixture before Christmas, as a very early goal from Dylan Holmes was all that the South Australian side needed to secure the three points.

It was a disappointing result for the Wanderers as they struggled to get into the fixture in the first half, and despite a much stronger second half where they threatened to score an equaliser and also had a player extra thanks to a late red card for Ella Toone, they weren’t able to find the equaliser.

It meant the Wanderers lost the chance to continue their climb up the table and are stuck in 10th place on the table, though they are still within touching distance of the chasing pack and the coveted finals places.

Despite the defeat, coach Robbie Hooker will still be impressed with the progress of his team in a short space of time, having taken two wins and two draws in recent weeks to lift themselves from the bottom of the table.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 23: Ella Tonkin of United fouls Holly Caspers of the Wanderers during the A-League Women round nine match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United at Wanderers Football Park, on December 23, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Their defence has been largely impressive since some tactical changes that saw the side switch to a five at the back formation, though they will be without key midfielder Bethany Gordon for a period of time after she suffered an arm injury.

Alexia Apostolakis and Gemma Ferris started in midfield in the last match in the absence of Gordon, and despite the defeat there is good chance the pair will once again be named in the starting side against the Victory.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 23: Gemma Ferris of the Wanderers controls the ball during the A-League Women round nine match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United at Wanderers Football Park, on December 23, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

All eyes will be on the in-form Sophie Harding as she looks to add to her tally of six goals in eight matches for the season so far; she was unable to trouble the scoresheet against Adelaide, but had scored in her previous four matches.

Holly Caspers and Maliah Morris have also been impressive going forward, with Caspers having three assists so far for the season and being able to play down the middle as well as out wide when required.

This match against the Victory is the first of three difficult games for the Wanderers, as they face three of the sides in the top four of the A-League Women.

The Victory were sitting in the top three and were unbeaten in six games, before they suffered a narrow 1-0 loss in the Melbourne Derby, as Emina Ekic scored a 10th minute goal that eventually separated the sides.

The Victory also lost their opening first two games, showing they can be vulnerable, but the side that won back-to-back Grand Finals between 2020 and 2022 will always be a difficult matchup no matter their place in the table.

They have recorded strong wins against Newcastle, Adelaide and Canberra, whilst also narrowly defeating the third placed Central Coast Mariners 2-1 at the start of December.

Captain Kayla Morrison continues to be a key figure at the back, whilst Rachel Lowe has four goals to begin the season for the Victory.

The Wanderers also don’t have the weight of history on their side, as they have only defeated Melbourne once in their history, with their solitary win coming in 2015 in a 3-1 win.

Their matches were largely competitive last season as the sides fought to a 0-0 draw at Wanderers Football Park, before the Victory overcame the Wanderers 3-1 in February.

The Wanderers are a force to be reckoned with at home, and with the chance to climb up the table as strong motivation, they will fancy themselves to break their poor record against the Victory and ensure they finish 2023 on a high note.