Canberra United’s season hung in the balance late in the game against Perth Glory on Sunday, that is until forward Ash Sykes popped up with one of the more spectacular goals seen in the Westfield W-League.
The pacy left-sided Sykes is used to seeing her team-mates grab the headlines, but a perfectly timed volley into the roof of the net from the edge of penalty area proved to be the winner as Canberra won through to the semi-final, inflicting a rare defeat on premiers Perth Glory in the process.
Canberra now head to Geelong for a do-or-die semi-final against Melbourne Victory whom the beat 1-0 just over a month ago when they last met.
Thanks to a strong second-half performance last Sunday, capped by that spectacular winner, Canberra head south with confidence.
Here Sykes, twin sister of United captain Nicole Begg, talks through the upcoming semi-final, Canberra’s growing confidence and that goal.
Was the game against Perth as torrid on the field as it looked on TV?
It was a high paced game, in the second half especially. The first half we were playing it a bit safe, by the end of the second half it was both tight and tiring.
How was the mood after Sunday’s game?
I think coming from behind like we did and beating a team like Perth has lifted everyone’s confidence, and there was pretty high spirits in the dressing room. We can take a lot from the game. We learned a lot from the first time we played against Perth, and took that knowledge into the game.
Was there an extra edge pre-match in the Canberra camp?
There is no better motivation than needing something to get in the finals. We knew we needed our A-game to draw or beat Perth so we were primed.
Now you face Melbourne Victory, what strengths do they have?
They always play as a unit, and show a great team performance. They are very organised, but this year they have some real goalscorers from different areas, be it inside or outside the box, set-pieces, etc. They are a very tough team to beat.
Is there anything different for the team in finals week?
It is just another week. We train as normal and head down on Friday. Everyone knows the drill, and being consistent in what we do helps. The interest obviously lifts (in finals) with media and fans, but everyone has experience of finals so they know not to get too sucked into the excitement of the occasion, and just play the game.
Have Canberra built momentum now after what has been an up and down season?
It has been a tough year for us. I think every week we have fixed problems we have had before, and we are learning more about each other and play as a team. We will again take lessons from the Perth game and into the Melbourne game.
And finally, was Sunday’s winner the best goal you have ever scored?
Oh yes definitely! It will be hard for me to beat as well. I have scored a few bicycle kicks in my dreams but I’m not sure even those are better. All the girls were impressed by it so that was nice.