Canberra United and Western United were forced to share the honours at McKellar Park as they rang out 2023 by playing out a hotly-contested 1-1 draw in the National Capital.

Head Coach Njegosh Popovich recalled goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln after the culmination of her one-match suspension, one of a brace of changes for the home team, the other seeing Deven Jackson replace fellow New Zealander Ruby Nathan in the starting line-up, her first start for the club.

Canberra started on the front foot and were inches away from taking the lead inside thirty seconds, Nickoletta Flannery just unable to turn in a low cross at the far post. Shortly afterwards Jackson received a cutback from Sasha Grove and slipped past the Western defender, only to shoot straight at Hillary Beall in the visitors’ goal.

By contrast, Western United offered very little, so it was no surprise when United took the lead on the half-hour. Grove, on her 19th birthday, broke down the right flank and slid a low ball across the face of goal where Michelle Heyman flicked an adroit finish into the net off the base of the far post.

In a match of few chances, neither side were able to impose themselves in front of goal with much authority, but it was the returning Lincoln who was the more anonymous of the pair of goalkeepers on show, having scant involvement in the opening forty-five minutes of the contest.

Leading at the interval Canberra went in search of a second, and Cannon Clough brought a save from Beall after exemplary approach work from Vesna Milivojevic, whilst Western responded with Adriana Taranto forcing a decent tip over from Lincoln. From the resulting corner, a goalmouth scramble saw Hannah Keane scuff a shot wide.

Lincoln was to the rescue just before the sixty-minute mark as the home stopper repelled a fierce Keane drive seconds after Western had a reasonable shout for a penalty waved away by the match officials, but the home side were being forced onto the back-foot.

After a sustained period of pressure, Western finally drew level in the 76th minute as Adriana Taranto found some space inside the Canberra penalty area and slid a precise finish into the back of the net to level the scores. And the visiting team thought they’d won it a minute from time.

A shot bounced back off the upright and substitute Avaani Prakash knocked it goalwards, the ball entering the net off a teammate who, to the relief of most of the 1,235 crowd, was immediately flagged offside. A feisty ending saw both teams receive yellow cards as the two protagonists fought for a winner, but the match ended all-square.


Canberra United (1) 1 (Heyman 30’) Western United (0) 1 (A. Taranto 76’)

TEAM: 1. Chloe LINCOLN, 3. Sarah CLARK, 5. Emma ILIJOSKI (9. Ruby NATHAN 66’), 8. Sasha GROVE, 10. Mary STANIC-FLOODY (4. Holly MURRAY 80’), 11. Deven JACKSON, 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY, 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (7. Maria ROJAS 80’)


YELLOW CARDS: 8. Sasha GROVE, 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON (Canberra United), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 16. Melissa TARANTO (Western United)


Attendance: 1,235