By Joan Grey
With only two rounds left, Saturday’s derby between Western Springs and Auckland United could determine which teams make the Grand Final of the National Women’s League.
Western Springs, Auckland United, and Southern United are locked in second position, all on 16 points, trailing leaders Eastern Suburbs by two points.
Southern United have the more favourable schedule, pitted against bottom-placed Central Football and Ellerslie in their final two games.
Rivals Western Springs and Auckland United have it tougher, confronting each other on Saturday.
Both need to win to stay comfortably in the running for the National League final — a draw most likely won’t cut it.
Western Springs, building on their Kate Sheppard Cup victory in September, are eyeing a National League/Cup double, while Auckland United holds the 2023 Lotto NFRL Premier League title and is chasing a second league title this season.
So far this year, matches between Western Springs and Auckland United have produced mixed results.
In June, Western Springs pulled off a 3-0 victory to knock Auckland United out of the Kate Sheppard Cup, but of their two encounters in August, the two sides drew the first 1-1, and Auckland United won the second 5-1.
On Saturday, Auckland United will have the home advantage at Keith Hay Park. It could be a decisive factor since Springs are used to the turf pitch of Seddon Fields.
Leaders Eastern Suburbs host bottom side Ellerslie on Sunday.
Depending on other results, three points for the Lilywhites might be enough to book their Grand Final berth.
League newcomers Ellerslie are still chasing their first win at this level.
Players to watch
Southern United defender Hannah Mackay-Wright (22) was the best player on the park as they beat Waterside Karori 3-0, showing her ability to anticipate attacks and play out from the back.
Away to Central Football this weekend, the former national U-17 player could again be important in a game Southern are expected to dominate.
— Logan Smith
Age group international Lara Colpi has been deadly from long range for Western Springs this season, including a powerful strike from the edge of the box in her double against Canterbury United Pride last weekend.
Playmaker Colpi (18) is strong on the ball, and she’ll be a key part of the Springs challenge at Auckland United’s Keith Hay Park.
She performed well for New Zealand at the OFC U-19 Championship this year, and at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India last year.
— Joan Grey
With the season nearly at an end and the Grand Final out of reach for both sides, we could see a really free-flowing and entertaining match between Canterbury United Pride and CF Wellington United.
I think Wellington United will nudge a rollercoaster match 3-2.
— Logan Smith
Though CF Wellington United lost their last two games, they were against strong adversaries in Western Springs and Auckland United, and both were closely contested outcomes determined by a single goal.
CF Wellington United’s knack for games on a knife’s edge is evident from their last four matches; just a one-goal margin has decided all.
I’m picking CF Wellington United to take a one-goal advantage over Canterbury United Pride and collect the three points.
— Joan Grey
Don’t write off Ellerslie’s chances against Eastern Suburbs. The teams might be at opposite ends of the league table but the Ponies have showed spirit in their games.
In their Lotto NRFL Women’s Premier League meetings, the sides drew 2-2 and Suburbs won 3-2 in the return fixture. Suburbs beat Ellerslie 4-2 in their Kate Sheppard Cup quarter-final.
Suburbs should win but I’m tipping the result will be close — say, a one-goal margin.
— Jack Sharp
Who plays who
With two rounds left, here’s who the grand final contenders have yet to play (leading contenders in bold):
Canterbury United Pride (a)
Auckland United (a)
Waterside Karori (h)
Western Springs (h)
Wellington United (a)
Central Football (a)
Game to be played on Saturday November 11, 2023
Canterbury United Pride v CF Wellington United
English Park, Christchurch, 1pm
CF Waterside Karori v Wellington Phoenix
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 4pm
Auckland United v Western Springs
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 4pm
Central Football v Southern United
Massey University, Palmerston North, 5pm
Game to be played on Sunday November 12, 2023
Eastern Suburbs v Ellerslie
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 2pm
Friends of Football writer Joan Grey loves playing and writing about football. She plays football for Franklin United.