Western Sydney Wanderers defender Vicky Bruce bagged a 79th-minute goal to complete her side’s 2-1 comeback win over Newcastle Jets in Bathurst on Friday night.
A healthy crowd of 3,873 flocked to Carrington Park to watch an intense Liberty A-League fixture unfold. Libby Copus-Brown opened the scoring for the Jets with a stunning strike from range but Sophie Harding levelled the scores just before the break with her ninth goal of the campaign, setting the platform for Bruce to find the winning goal in the second half.
Both teams began Round 16 with the opportunity to climb into the top four and it was the Wanderers taking full advantage, with Robbie Hooker’s side breaking a two-game losing run to leap above three clubs into fourth spot on the Liberty A-League table.
Paramount+ co-commentator and Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney lauded the strong turnout in Bathurst as a special sight capable of inspiring future Liberty A-League stars to emerge from regional areas in Australia.
“If we have three or four thousand kids, women, men, fans watching our Liberty A-League stars in Bathurst, it’s a great occasion,” Blayney said.
“It’s superb. To have our Liberty A-League stars playing in regional areas, you’ve got 3,873 fans, future players of our A-League… a really well-rounded football experience.”
The Jets threatened to take the lead early doors when Wanderers keeper Kaylie Collins came off her line to clear the ball at the feet of Sarina Bolden. The rebound was collected by Sophie Hoban and her strike from range tested Collins, who collected the long-range shot with a smart save.
Hoban was in the thick of the action again as the Jets pressed on in search of an opener, picking a gap in the Wanderers defence to send Copus-Brown through on goal – but her shot flashed just wide of the target.
That chance proved a sighter for Copus-Brown, who just minutes later broke the deadlock with a scorching hit from outside the box.
Bolden came close to doubling the advantage shortly before the break when she was picked out unmarked in the box by a Lauren Allan cross. The Philippines international rose to meet the delivery and her looping header dropped onto the roof of the net.
The miss would prove costly as Western Sydney star Harding breezed past the Jets defence to latch onto a long ball from defence flicked on by Holly Caspers and ease a curling finish into the top-right corner.
Night fell in Bathurst as the second half began, and the resumption after the break came with a raise in tension at Carrington Park with both sides committing to physical challenges to begin the second stanza.
With more than 70 minutes elapsed, Allan came closest to finding a second-half goal with a shot out of nothing which called Collins into a back-tracking fingertip save.
Bolden kept up the pressure with a curling attempt off her left foot but Collins was once again up to the task of keeping the Jets at bay, diving to her right to palm the ball out for a corner.
Then came the Wanderers’ moment to take the lead – and it was seized with both hands by defender Bruce, who anticipated an Izzy Nino save off Amy Harrison’s free-kick to find the back of the net.
Bruce’s 79th-minute strike proved the difference between the two sides, with the final whistle confirming a 2-1 win for the Wanderers in front of 3,873 fans in Bathurst.