16/04/2024

Michelle Heyman puts in inspiring performance. (Image: Canberra United - Twitter)

Having gone goalless in the opening two rounds of the new campaign, Canberra United skipper Michelle Heyman put in a masterful display as her side ran out 3-0 victors over the Wellington Phoenix.

In what was a dominant individual display as it was a team display, Heyman caused headaches throughout the day for the Nix defence, with the veteran finishing the day with a brace having gone without a goal in the first two games of the season.

Midfield Grace Maher got the home side off the mark inside the opening 10 minutes, the 23-year-old enjoying a bright start to the campaign in her own right, having now registered three goal contributions across the three opening games of the season.

Heyman then double her side’s advantage from close range to put her side two goals ahead before the half-hour mark to ensure United went into halftime 2-0 leaders. In the early stages of the second half, the forward would bag a second and seal the game for her side.

One of the key factors in the side’s 3-0 win, Heyman spoke post-game and was relieved to finally get off the mark in season 2022/23. She hopes she can keep the good form going for the rest of the campaign.

“It was good [to get back amongst the scorers], it’s always an uneasy [feeling] not scoring in the first couple games of the season,” Heyman said.

“So I’m just happy now to finally put a couple in the back of the net just to get that confidence, and hopefully every game from here on end, there’s a lot of more goals going in.”

Though they didn’t dominate possession, United was the far superior of the two sides going forward, registering 21 shots on goal while conceding just seven of their own, keeping a clean sheet in the process.

With the likes of Grace Jale and Grace Maher emerging, Canberra hasn’t looked as one dimension when pressing forward as it has in recent years, with coach Njegosh Popovich shaking things up tactically.

With goals coming from different sources this campaign, Heyman has embraced sharing the load, saying it’s been a while since they’ve had multiple threatening attacking options.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had multiple goal scorers for Canberra United, which is something that a lot of people haven’t seen in a while,” she said.

“So there’s less pressure now on me to score goals…you can even see from today’s game there are multiple people having shots at goal and they’re coming from our midfielders out wide and everywhere.

“This year that’s one of Canberra’s big strengths, to make sure we can get people in and around the box, it doesn’t matter who’s putting the goal in the net, it just matters we’re getting the three points.”

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Having now gone unbeaten in nine of their past games, Heyman credited the side’s mentality to close out games and was unsure why they’re rarely on the losing end.

“It all comes from the training sessions, we’re putting in the hard work day in and day out,” she said.

“We’ve all got that mentality in the team that we all want to work hard for each other and we’re never going to give up.

“The one thing we can work on finishing out the game even stronger, today was a good example of that. We managed to hold on to a lot of the ball with five minutes to go and there weren’t that many shots against us.

“We looked disciplined in our blocks, for us, it’s just about maintaining composure, being focused and making sure we play our game and to our strengths.”

Having now scored 84 career goals in the A-League Women’s competition, the 34-year-old is closing in on an elusive 100 career goals.

Commenting on closing in on the record post-game, she admitted it’s something she’s striving for and is looking to create more chances for herself this season following a quiet start.

“Every year I just want to try and score as many goals as possible, for myself it’s always the biggest challenge to try and win the golden boot, I just want to make sure I’m doing everything possible,” she said.

“I could have been more selfish in the first couple of games we’ve played. I think I was a little bit calmer on the ball, so now I’m going to go out firing because of course sometimes it’s [the record] in the back of your mind.”

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