Cockayne: It Was Intense

Any football fan waiting to hear the result of Adelaide United’s Round 9 match against Perth Glory Women will tell you those last 10 minutes of the match were excruciatingly, edge-of-the-seat long…

Any football fan waiting to hear the result of Adelaide United-s Round 9 match against Perth Glory Women will tell you those last 10 minutes of the match were excruciatingly, edge-of-the-seat long.

The Girls FC team was on a train to Melbourne after the Melbourne v Brisbane game in Geelong and the internet connection kept dropping out. Westfield Matildas and Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri was at the Newcastle Jets- Hyundai A-League game, but was tweeting that she couldn-t concentrate on anything except Adelaide-s result. And fans kept asking via social media the burning questions on all our lips: Have the Lady Reds won?

With some 34 matches without posting a win, a figure that almost inverts Brisbane Roar-s 36 matches undefeated, Adelaide have been the team that everyone wants to see do well. That was demonstrated by the volume of likes, tweets, comments that followed the announcement, and the speed and excitement with which the good news spread: The Lady Reds defeated Perth 1-0.

Donna Cockayne, Lady Reds- most-capped player, summed up what the rest of us were feeling and probably doing: ‘It was intense,- she said. ‘I couldn-t watch. Everyone felt nervously sick and were jumping up and down.-

Anyone who-d seen Adelaide play in recent times would attest that a win was on its way. Under new head coach Dave Edmondson-s tutelage the team, which had been in danger of being disbanded before the season when the new owner of Adelaide United chose not to support it, looked the strongest its ever looked in the Westfield W-League-s four-season history.

They-d come close to securing that elusive win in previous rounds. They-d taken the early lead in some matches, but just weren-t quite being able to sustain it for the full 90 minutes. Other teams might have gotten the better of Adelaide, but none had done it this season easily, convincingly, or without being given a decent scare.

‘It was there,- Cockayne agreed. ‘We knew it was coming. We were getting ahead in games and then we were just letting it go with little mistakes.-

The Lady Reds knew that hosting Perth represented their best chance to break to winless drought. Perth was struggling with injuries, the loss of players, and had conceded a record 11 goals to Sydney just a few rounds before. Combined with vast improvements and good team dynamics within their own ranks, the Lady Reds- chances of winning were as good as ever.

‘The lead-up to the match was good,- Cockayne said. ‘We felt positive, but knew at the same time Perth weren-t going to come out with their heads down from previous results. They had beaten us earlier in the season.-

This match, though, Adelaide edged ahead through an Ebbs goal in the 36th minute and doggedly defended the lead. The win was a bit surreal, Cockayne said and, having come off the pitch around the 70th minute as Edmondson injected fresh legs into the match, she couldn-t clearly recall what happened after that final whistle.

‘I felt like a bit of a fool because I didn-t know it was the final whistle. I jumped up and sprinted onto the pitch. Then I paused to check it really was the final whistle. Fortunately it was, because everyone followed me onto the pitch,- she said.

‘I think we jumped around for a little bit. A few of the girls slid on the wet surface. Everyone was jumping on us. When we got in the change rooms, a few of us stopped and looked at each other and didn-t quite know what to do.-

The win was tempered slightly, she said, by the fact that the team hadn-t played as well as they knew they could. The conditions were tough, if not impossible, with pelting rain and blustery conditions in the second half, and the pitch covered in pools of water.

‘We weren-t ecstatic about how we played,- Cockayne said. ‘We wanted to (and knew we could) play better, especially in front of our home crowd.- But, she admits when pressed, the weather conditions were outside of their control and sometimes a win-s a win; it-s great to have gotten one on the board.

Cockayne especially credits the supporters who-ve not only stuck with the team over the previous seasons, but who braved wind and rain to cheer them onto their history-making win.

‘If I was supporter, I-d have been in the grandstand with my jacket on, thinking take me home. But the Red Terrace stood out there in the rain with their banners right until the final whistle. To have their support there was huge,- she said.

The support kept coming, with fans around the country sending well wishes through likes, retweets, and virtual and actual high-fives (Girls FC will admit we performed all four).

‘We even had our manager from the previous few seasons watching the match,- Cockayne said. ‘She sent us a text message saying she got a bit teary.-

Not to take anything away from Adelaide-s hard-fought win, Cockayne empathises with Perth-s tough run.

‘I can only understand how frustrated they would be, especially because they had that first game,- she said, referring to the 11-0 loss to Sydney. ‘It is heartbreaking to get the one loss. Then you put that behind you. And then you get another loss…You could just see how heartbroken they were. As excited as we were, we felt for them. You don-t go out there and try to lose.-

With two games left in the season and with Adelaide off the bottom of the table but not in finals contention, Cockayne-s looking to finish the season well.

‘All we can do is try to finish the season on a bit of a high,- she said. ‘We-ve been pretty positive with how we-ve played. I think this win will give us some confidence.-

Adelaide will meet league leaders Canberra in this weekend-s match, with the latter looking to continue a run of a different kind: A win on Saturday would see them go undefeated in 10 matches and secure them the minor premiership. Given Adelaide-s form throughout the season and their newly won confidence, though, a hard-fought match will be on the cards.