By Logan Smith
After an impressive Women’s National League season, Southern United are in a strong position to clinch their place in next week’s Grand Final at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart in Auckland.
Now, the club has a clear task for this Saturday’s home match against Ellerslie; win, and they’re into the Women’s National League Grand Final for the first time.
However, despite the big away trip, last-placed Ellerslie will not be arriving in Dunedin intending to be mere spectators for a Southern United party, and they have reason to believe they can get a result.
Despite losing their first seven Women’s National League games, a shock 1-0 win against Eastern Suburbs last weekend and earlier season results in the NRFL Women’s Premier have shown they can compete with and beat strong opposition.
After a few tight wins in a row, then a draw with Auckland United, Southern United looked set to have to battle all the way to the last round for a chance at a Grand Final place.
However, it has been smoother sailing since, with strong 3-0 and 4-1 wins over Waterside Karori and Central Football, respectively exhibiting the team’s attacking prowess, while defeats in other matches for table rivals Eastern Suburbs and Western Springs have helped the Southerners rise to second place.
They’ve been helped by a formidable defence that on goals against, has ranked the best in the league, but this year, Southern’s attack has also improved tremendously and helped the team contend for the top places against strong opposition.
While the goalscorers have been numerous and the attacking load well shared, imposing striker Amy Hislop has still stood out, and she is now up to six goals for the National League after a brace away to Central Football last weekend.
A striker that thrives on dominating physical battles and sensing out loose touches from opposition defenders, she is certainly one Ellerslie will have to watch carefully.
It has been an expectedly tough National League christening for Ellerslie, who have been on the losing end most weeks.
However, a stunning 1-0 upset win over league leaders Eastern Suburbs will have seriously boosted confidence for the Ponies, and they can now go into the final round with hopes of moving out of last place and overtaking either or both of Wellington Phoenix Reserves and Central Football with a positive result.
In parts, it was backs-against-the-wall football against Suburbs, particularly in the second half, but the game demonstrated that they could compete with the best opponents and funnily enough, did this weekends’ opponent Southern a big favour in the Grand Final race.
This week, the question for spectators may be whether Ellerslie can repeat such a feat after a long away trip, and what their gameplan will be if the Southerners score first.
It seems simple for the home side, but we know final rounds don’t always play out that way.
While Southern know that victory would secure a Grand Final place, they could also do so with a draw and other results going their way, or in extraordinary circumstances, can even make it if they lose and other results are very favourable to them.
Certainly, if things are looking tight, the coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on how things are playing out elsewhere.
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
Petra Wedlake, Alex Loo, Nadia Olla, Kelsea King
Courtney Beale, Tayla Hawes, Kim Oosterbeek, Anita Trudgen, Abby Wright, Paige Ihaka, Mia Collins, Dalila Mosca
Leigh Aitken, Hollie Leona, Cat Pretty, Ella James, Marilia Rocha Xerez Braga, Lyric Davison
Vibha Godha, Cilla Fa’afua, Kat Gow, Britney Cunningham-Lee, Hannah Barclay, Julia Robinson, Sarah Jessup
Game to be played on Sunday November 19, 2023
Southern United v Ellerslie
Dunedin Artificial Turf, Dunedin, 2pm
Logan Smith is a passionate football fan and volunteer, based in Dunedin, covering the Southern League.