Warners Bay may have lost to Magic on Wednesday night but there was plenty for coach Craig Atkins to smile about after star signing Jen Hoy finally took the field for the Panthers.
Now he was looking forward to watching the combination develop between the former National Women's Soccer League striker and Panthers attacking midfielder Elodie Dagg.
Dagg was sidelined with an ankle complaint on Wednesday night as Warners Bay lost 2-1 to Broadmeadow at Magic Park but is expected to play when the Panthers round out a challenging seven-day period, in which they will have played three games, at Arthur Edden Oval on Saturday against New Lambton.
"The first half was a very even contest," Atkins said. "Second half, good start scoring a goal then we probably just went into our shell a little bit and probably just didn't play smart enough.
"We missed Elodie in the middle of the park ... and with Jen coming in, she'll only get better and lift the girls around her.
"She's trained the house down and played a full game [against Magic] but she's not match fit yet, so that's scary because there were some moments there for her. She's sharp and I don't think we exploited that enough in the first half. I'm looking for her combination with Elodie. I've seen it at training and it's quite solid."
Warners Bay announced the surprise signing of Hoy two weeks ago as the Herald Women's Premier League was set to restart after a nearly four-month break due to the coronavirus crisis.
But the 29-year-old, who made over 100 appearances in the NWSL and played for Newcastle in the 2016-17 W-League, had been waiting for an international clearance to play WPL. That came through Wednesday.
Her class was evident from the get-go, as was her nose for goal with the athletic attacker giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the second half. Hoy chipped an advancing goalkeeper then showed speed to burn to chase down a ball that most thought was going out and slotted it into an open goal from close range.
"When I played for the Jets I met my now partner, who is Australian, so I made it here right before the borders closed," the now Newcastle-based Hoy told the Newcastle Herald post-match. "I was itching to play and stay fit. Cass Davis, my former Jets teammate, introduced me to this team and now I'm here.
"I'm here to have fun and stay fit and help these girls learn and grow and also learn myself as a mentor. These girls are young and they're working really hard and they care so much and that's what matters most. It felt good to be out there and I want to help this team do well and win games."
Warners Bay have six points to be in a three-way tie for fourth with Magic and Mid Coast. Defending champions New Lambton are seventh with one point.
Co-captain and centre-back Toria Campbell has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury. Goalkeeper Ruby Jones is also an unlikely starter for the Eagles with a leg injury while Kaitlin Radstaak returns from injury.
Eagles coach Brad Jones watched Hoy play on Wednesday night and knows she will be a threat as New Lambton chase their first win of the season.
"She's a class player and super quick," Jones said. "The goal she scored, the rest of the world stopped and she didn't stop. That's the difference in mentality and that's what she brings for them. That's the big thing I took away from it - that class is just class.
"She won't give up until it's over but she's also got the pace and she's got the ability with her feet to hurt you. We need to be on point about that, especially with Elodie coming back.
"The focus for us is the same as it has been for the past few weeks. It's about that clinical execution, especially in the final third."
The match on Saturday kicks off at 3pm.
In other round-five action on Sunday, Thornton are at home to Newcastle Olympic, Merewether travel to Port Macquarie to play Mid Coast and Adamstown host Magic.
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