A resolute second half performance has seen UWA-Nedlands FC prevail 1-0 over Ashfield SC at McGillivray Oval.
Alex Kretowicz's 70th-minute winner following on from a slick passage of passing play proved the difference as Uni completed a league double over Ashfield.
Tristan Taylor was ever present throughout the match in his first start of the season, while Tim Robertson performed superbly at centre-back. The match also marked a return from a hamstring injury for the influential midfielder Andrew Xydas, who added a touch of class in the middle of the park.
Both sides pushed hard from the outset before the first chance fell for Kretowicz in the 11th minute. The striker found space outside the 18-yard-box, but could only float his shot straight into the grasps of Ashfield keeper Brad Eiffe. That chance would pale in comparison to one that followed minutes later, when a slammed low strike from Devlin was deflected, then saved spectacularly onto the crossbar.
Up the other end, Ranjeet Sekhon was called into action after a well-hit curling strike from Jamie Stewart, with the towering keeper tipping the shot around the post. From the subsequent two corners, Ashfield headed narrowly wide on both occasions, showing their aptitude in aerial duels.
10 minutes later, Sekhon was forced into another big save, this time down low to his left from the edge of the 18-yard-box. Showing their strength on set pieces again, Gary Hill’s near post flick on was tipped over brilliantly by Sekhon once again, as the veteran continued his rich vein of form between the sticks.
The first half was physical in nature, with Uni and Ashfield exerting their strength both in the air and in challenges.
With both teams vying to win the midfield battle for the majority of the half, the opportunities to score dried up until Kretowicz found space in the box. A neat passage of play by Uni saw the striker receive the ball, turn and shoot for the bottom right corner, however, Eiffe was equal to it.
Tensions ran high into half time, with players from both sides picking up bookings. After several minutes of stoppage time, a fiery first half of football finished scoreless.
Ashfield came out of sheds with plenty of gusto, beginning the second half with their best opportunity of the match. A slammed shot from Hill deflected off the side of the head of Stewart and narrowly bobbled wide of the near post, wrong footing Sekhon as Uni were let off the hook.
Uni wrangled back control of the match and began to make chances. Momentum swung soon after a speculative long shot from Devlin sailed far over the crossbar, but filled UWA with confidence. In the 62nd minute, Tim Robertson went agonisingly close to heading Uni in the lead. A floated cross by Mordecai Junior found the centre-half at the back post but his lofted effort across goal ended up on top of his target, the far top corner.
Soon after, Uni’s fluent brand of football got going as Kretowicz almost opened the scoring following a superb team move. A barnstorming run from Tristan Taylor down the right saw the winger whip in a sizzling mid-height cross, but Kretowicz glanced his chance wide of the far post with the goal gaping.
After putting the visitors under pressure for a long period of play, Uni finally broke the deadlock with another well-crafted passage of play. Devlin threaded a perfect through ball to Patrick Morrison through the gap as the big striker slid in to find Kretowicz at the far post. Kretowicz made no mistake, lunging to touch the ball past Eiffe to open the scoring.
Uni continued to maintain their stranglehold on the match, as Devlin, Mordecai Junior and Taylor began to pull the strings. In the 86th minute, Kretowicz would find the back of the net again from close range but was called offside from what seemed a back pass. Regardless, the goal was scratched and Uni’s singular goal lead remained.
The visitors drove hard for an equaliser in the closing stages with a number of headed opportunities well off target. The central defensive pairing of Robertson and Tom Moroney remained steely in the defence, as Uni grounded out a hard-fought but deserved 1-0 victory which sees's Michael Janssen's men jump two spots into 5th place with Rockingham suffering a surprise 2-1 home loss to Joondalup City.
In other results, the 18's shared the spoils in an enthralling 3-3 draw, while the Reserves suffered a 4-1 loss.