A late first goal in a hard-fought match against 2017 premiers Bathurst City, saw Lithgow Panthers lose only their second game of the season.
Coach David Marshall said he “was very proud” of Saturday’s young squad, who managed to keep City scoreless until the final minutes of the game while missing key players, including captain Cheryn Van-Veen.
“We’ve been getting good results, which has seen the younger players growing in confidence and see that they can achieve without those key players.
“Against a top team, who were premiers last year, they played very well.
“In the first half they defended a lot and by the end they were gutted by the effort they put in. But City didn’t get to them and that’s good to see.”
The Panthers certainly didn’t give City an easy time, with the first and only goal of the game scored with just eight minutes left on the board.
“It was hard fought and I think it could of probably gone either way, just that goal within the last ten minutes,” said Bathurst City captain Kelly Baker.
“We just had to keep fighting for it, which we are used to.”
City dominated the first half, with the Panthers unable to get the ball to the attacking end of the field due to skillful intercepts by the visitors.
Panthers’ shot blocker Bailee Staines proved invaluable, breaking persistent circle penetrations by City.
Panthers’ structure tightened towards the end of the half and the team had the chance to record a goal with two late penalty corners, however, they failed to convert.
The final 35 minutes saw play more evenly spread.
A painful collision between Panthers’ rookie Mackenzie Stewart and City’s Jade Te Weehi stopped the game with 26 minutes to go and Stewart was carried off with an ankle injury.
A breakaway by City’s Kelsey Willott with 15 minutes on the board began the visitors’ most concerted effort for goals.
A skirmish centimetres from the box led to a run of short corners, all three deftly saved by Panthers.
It wasn’t until City’s Lisa Quinn brought the ball up the left wing, with less than eight minutes to go, and crossed it over that Willott hit the mark, bypassing a diving Staines.
Quinn tried to increase City’s lead with a second shot at goals but missed.
Panthers pushed to get on the board, but the game ended in their goal circle with no reply.
Coach Marshall commended the performance of Bathurst City.
“Their intensity across the park was challenging. I think it’s the best performance we’ve seen from any side this year.
“They wanted to win and they did pressure us in the early stages but thankfully we were able to overcome that."
He commended the performance of Bailee Staines and Clare Bosman, and said that he’d heard Mackenzie Stewart would be attending training on Tuesday night.
Captain Cheryn Van-Veen will likely by out for a fortnight with a finger injury she received before Saturday’s game.
“I am hoping we can get the full squad together for the semi-final rounds, it’s only happened once this year,” Marshall said.
Panthers will be aiming to win back the second-place spot in the last two rounds before finals.
“Yeah, just to get those two bites of the cherry. If not, it’s sudden death and we’ve just got to perform in the semi-final period.”
Panthers will play Ex-Service in Orange on Saturday at 1.55pm.
BATHURST CITY 1 (Kelsey Willott) def LITHGOW PANTHERS 0