Two games this weekend are likely to flush out the true contenders for places in November’s Grand Final for the Women’s National League.
Only two points separate the top five sides in the competition and four of them go head-to-head.
Leaders Auckland United host second-placed Southern United, while CF Wellington United (5th) and Western Springs (4th) meet in the capital.
With only three rounds left after those games, there’ll be few second chances for the teams that lose on Sunday.
Southern United travel north with the best chance of disrupting the dominance of Auckland’s top clubs.
They’re gunning for their fifth win in a row, having not lost since the 1-0 defeat by defending champion Eastern Suburbs in the opening round.
United have the tightest defence in the competition and will provide Lotto NRFL Premier League champions Auckland United with their toughest test yet.
The match between Western Springs and CF Wellington United will be season-defining for both.
A win by Western Springs will ensure they move into the top three on the table, regardless of other results, because they have the league’s best goal difference.
Defeat will almost certainly leave the loser five points adrift of a Grand Final spot, assuming Eastern Suburbs roll the winless Central Football side.
In Saturday’s only game, Ellerslie travel to CF Waterside Karori still in search of their first-ever win in the national competition.
Former champions Canterbury United Pride host Wellington Phoenix who will be able to call on first team players as the club has no women’s A-League fixture this weekend.
Player to watch
New Zealand U-20 international Zoe McMeeken (19) has been a standout for the Phoenix Reserves in recent weeks but is yet to make this season’s A-League matchday squad.
McMeeken started all but one of the Phoenix matches in their inaugural A-League campaign but was limited to seven appearances last season, six of which were off the bench.
Watch for her as she continues to press her case for first-team action when she faces her former club, Canterbury United Pride.
— Logan Smith
The Kate Sheppard Cup final was a closely-fought battle between Wellington United and Western Springs, who won 2-1 with the winner in the 89th minute.
This weekend, a hybrid federation/club version of Wellington United hosts Springs, and the two sides are level on 10 points.
Neither can afford to lose or they’ll lose touch with the top three teams.
I’m picking Springs to find a way to win, after their confidence-building 4-0 win last round against Eastern Suburbs. But only just … it’ll be tight.
— Jack Sharp
With an international break in the women’s A-League, the Phoenix Reserves seem likely to again bring some first-team players into the National League side.
We’ve seen how difficult that made things for top-half teams Western Springs and Wellington United, but this Sunday, I think they’ll go one better and topple a Canterbury United Pride team that’s leaked goals so far.
Let’s say 4-2 to the Phoenix.
— Logan Smith
Games to be played on Saturday October 28, 2023
CF Waterside Karori v Ellerslie
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 3.30pm
Games to be played on Sunday October 29, 2023
Auckland United v Southern United
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 12pm
Canterbury United Pride v Wellington Phoenix
English Park, Christchurch, 2pm
Eastern Suburbs v Central Football
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 2.30pm
CF Wellington United v Western Springs
Newtown Park, Wellington, 3.30pm