AWFA cup final: Albury United beat Melrose.


Albury United went back-to-back with a devastating cup final display on Saturday night.

The 2022 champions did it again at Lavington Sports Ground, seeing off the challenge of Melrose in what was their first Division 1 women’s cup final since 1986.

Paula Mitchell scored four goals, with Molly Goldsworthy and Ruby Leslie also on target for a Greens side who bounced back from losing three of their first five games and a coaching shake-up to once again win the biggest game of the year.

“I was a bit nervous coming in because of how well Melrose played last week,” United co-coach Cade Webb said.

“But what a fantastic run by our girls towards the end of the year.

“When Tracey I and took it on in round two, it was a bit of a disaster but the players bought into the plan and the program.

“We’re very proud of how hard they’ve worked and this success shows that.”

Goldsworthy was straight into the game for United, shooting narrowly wide and then denied by Georgia Taylor as the Melrose goalkeeper raced out to narrow the angle.

The next chance for Goldsworthy was even better, as she ran in behind the last defender, but her shot lacked power and Taylor was able to stick out a foot and save.

At the other end, Alicia Torcaso’s first chance to run at the Melrose defence was ended by Sophie Cary, who did well to jockey and hold her up.

If it wasn’t the physicality of Goldsworthy down the middle, it was the electric pace of Mitchell which Melrose had to worry about and the former Preston Lions forward served a reminder of just how dangerous she could be by haring onto a loose ball down the left and forcing Taylor to concede a corner.

Melrose looked steadier as the half wore on and when Torcaso was presented with a half-chance inside the box, she hit a snapshot straight at Sam Clark.

Torcaso was proving a real pest for the United defenders although both forward lines were guilty of wandering into offside positions throughout the first half.

Mitchell had another chance to show her speed but this time, Melinda Wilson was able to match her for pace and do enough to take the sting out of Mitchell’s goalbound effort.
But it was only a temporary reprieve.

With 33 minutes on the clock, Mitchell swapped passes with Brea Quinlivan, taking the return in her stride and steering the ball inside the far post despite Taylor getting a touch to the shot.

And Mitchell then produced a moment of real quality, six minutes before half-time, taking a forward pass on the run and chipping Taylor from the left-hand corner of the penalty area to make it 2-0.

It could almost have been game over when the ball dropped invitingly for Kyanna Milne on the stroke of half-time but she leaned back as she shot and fired the ball over.

Melrose couldn’t afford to concede again at the start of the second half – but they did.

There didn’t appear to be much on for Goldsworthy when she took possession inside the penalty but if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win the raffle and what happened next proved the point.

Goldsworthy hooked the ball goalwards from a narrow angle and Taylor somehow let the ball escape from her grasp, turning in horror to see it rolling across the line.

Melrose were staring down the barrel now and when Goldsworthy’s flick-on found Milne in acres of space, she forced a low save from the diving Taylor.

Mitchell hit the outside of the post as the green and white tide kept rolling towards the Melrose goal and United captain Allanah Seary tested Taylor from long-range as United’s supporters really began to find their voice.

Torcaso was feeding off scraps and her frustration was evident after first being denied by a Clark save and then a timely Jenna Ruhbaum tackle.

Even the luck was on United’s side, a Clark clearance ricocheting back off Cary but straight into the goalkeeper’s grateful gloves.

Seary had her eye in now, sending a first-time effort just wide from outside the box, before Mitchell beat the offside trap and wrapped up her hat-trick 17 minutes from time.

In her nine games since returning from Melbourne, mid-season, Mitchell scored 20 goals for a United side quite simply unrecognisable from the outfit which looked so shaky in the opening rounds of 2023.

Torcaso talked herself into a yellow card on a tough night for Melrose but they have showed enough this season to suggest they will be a finals force for years to come.

Leslie delivered a fairytale finish, scoring from a corner in the 89th minute on the night she had vowed to deliver a cup win for her sick father Jon, before Mitchell rolled in her fourth of the night with virtually the last kick.

“I’m so stoked because this is our second one in a row,” Mitchell said.

“I gave Melbourne a shot but it was just too much work for me.

“I’m really grateful that I could come back into United and rejoin the team.

“To come through and get into the grand final again is such an unreal feeling.”

  • Albury United celebrate with the cup. Picture by Mark Jesser

Albury United celebrate with the cup. Picture by MARK JESSER