By Logan Smith
Women’s National League frontrunners Auckland United and Southern United clash this weekend at Keith Hay Park, a game likely to attract much attention as the race for Grand Final places intensifies.
With two points separating first from fifth place, the run-in promises to be tight and so it’s imperative for Auckland United and Southern United that they keep momentum going.
Still to play other contenders in Western Springs and Wellington United, the pressure will be on Auckland United at home to keep their Grand Final ambitions in their own hands with a win.
For visitors Southern, a draw may not be a bad result with a less gruelling schedule in the last three rounds, but without doubt, they will travel north fully intending to take three points and keep their winning streak going.
Both sides will also expect their closest rivals Eastern Suburbs to beat Central Football elsewhere.
Main photo: Auckland United … took the 2023 regional title, ahead of the National League. Photo: Andrew Skinner / Phototek.
As Lotto NRFL Women’s Premier champions, Auckland United were always expected to be at the pointy end of the table as the season developed.
A defeat in Round 2 against Eastern Suburbs set them back, but victories against Waterside Karori, Central Football and Ellerslie have since got them back on track and they have climbed to the top of the league table.
After starting the Women’s National League with goals aplenty, there may have been some concern with Auckland United’s narrow 1-0 win over last-placed Ellerslie, with Bree Johnson’s first-half goal the difference, continuing a strong National League campaign for her.
But importantly, the three points were secured and if not for profligacy in front of goal, the scoreline may have been more comfortable.
Not many expected Southern to challenge, but their results have demanded they be taken seriously as a title contender.
If they can navigate games against Auckland United and Waterside Karori well, Southern could be in pole position to clinch a Grand Final place with more winnable games than their rivals face in the last two rounds.
Southern’s ability to win tight games has really helped their cause in recent weeks, holding out against Wellington United for a 1-0 win and coming from behind to beat Canterbury United 2-1.
Only conceding four goals in five games and never having surrendered a lead, they could certainly make it tough for Auckland United with an early goal.
Last year’s clashes between the two teams saw Auckland United win 7-0 in Dunedin, with Southern United later travelling north and winning 4-1.
With these highly contradictory past results and significant squad change for both, there may not be much to read into this head-to-head record, making this Sunday’s game even tougher to pick.
From the 7-0 result alone, Auckland United starters Milly Clegg, Ruby Nathan and Manaia Elliott now ply their trade in the women’s A-League.
What we do know is that whoever can come out on top on Sunday will be in a strong position to feature in the Grand Final on November 26.
Amberley Hollis, Aimee Hall
Talisha Green, Jess Philpot, Greer Macintosh, Chelsea Elliot, Kate McConnell, Suya Haering
Yume Harashima, Maisy Dewell, Danielle Canham, Maya Vince, Penny Brill, Manami Nishio
Bree Johnson, Shannon Henson, Rene Wasi, Alexis Cook, Emmeiln Bowala, Poppy O’Brien
Lauren Paterson, Hayley Julian, Amy Simmers
Hannah Mackay-Wright, Toni Power, Samantha Woolley, Jemma Wilson, Marissa Porteous, Tahlia Roome, Freya Partridge-Moore, Saffron Hare
Rose Morton, Maddy McCormick, Kendrah Smith, Abby Rankin, Katie Mawdesley, Jemma McCormick, Shania McIntosh
Jemma Wilson, Margarida Dias, Amy Hislop, Georgia Kennedy, Zara Pratley, Bee Park, Raegan Potter
Game to be played on Sunday October 29, 2023
Auckland United v Southern United
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 12pm
Logan Smith is a passionate football fan and volunteer, based in Dunedin, covering the Southern League.