By Marc McGowan
THE Casey Comets’ conversion nightmares came back to haunt them in a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Preston Lions in a spiteful Women’s Premier League encounter at Comets Stadium on Sunday.
The Comets were seeking their third consecutive victory while the Lions were attempting to end their slide of three defeats from their past four matches.
After a relatively uneventful opening, Marcie Algeria, as she often does, exploded into action with a devastating run before nonchalantly chipping the ball over Preston goalkeeper Nab Saliba to give Casey the lead.
Victorian junior representative Anna Carmichael was the next to threaten the goals when midfielder Rachel Lamb sent a long ball forward, but the teenager’s shot failed to beat Saliba.
At the other end, Jeni Black, Vanessa Hellar and the feisty Irena Taseski nullified the few forays Preston could muster.
That was until a costly Carmichael error turned the ball over and the Lions were able to counterattack.
Confusion between Comets goalkeeper Emma Bracken and Black resulted in Peta Lipec almost scoring, but a desperate lunge by Bracken ended that challenge momentarily.
Unfortunately for Casey, Sarah Lovett followed up to slot the equaliser against the flow of play.
The Preston goal changed the tempo slightly, but the Comets were forced to rue their wastefulness as they deserved to be ahead at half-time.
Not much changed after the break, although tempers began to flare at a higher rate, highlighted by a ferocious challenge on Casey’s Lucy Kapusta that saw her writhing in pain.
The heat reached fever point later in the half when Taseski chested her Lion opponent due to what she clearly believed was unwarranted attention as the ball went over the sideline.
The referee was not impressed and issued the Macedonian veteran with a yellow card.
Punctuating these incidents was an array of missed opportunities by the Comets, most notably by Kapusta, who blew an ideal chance after a brilliant shot from team-mate Sarah Fitzgerald.
Ultimately Casey had to settle for a draw and relinquish the prospect of breaking into the top five by the halfway point of the season.
Comets coach Deborah Nichols bemoaned another wasted day in front of goal, which she said had plagued her side for up to three seasons.
“I said to the girls that we had more chances than the week before and we won 4-1 against Uni (of Melbourne) last week,” she said.
“We could talk about this every week about our chances in games. We don’t bury teams and (Preston) ended up coming off pretty chuffed with themselves.”
As for the brutal nature of the battle, Nichols was not surprised.
“There is a bit of history between us and there was a bit of a dust-up last year,” she said.
“I spoke to the referee before the game to word him up, but although there were verbals as the players were coming off, it was a pretty mild game in that regard.”
Casey enjoyed its first win in the reserves with a resounding 4-1 triumph, which included three goals inside the first 10 minutes.
The Comets take on the winless WVSA at Howard Glover Reserve in Geelong on Sunday, with the reserves aiming for two straight successes at 1pm and the seniors kicking off at 3pm.
By Marc McGowan