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Central of attention

Central Football 2
Auckland Football 4

National Women’s League
05 November 2017
Memorial Park, Palmerston North.

After concentrating on Capital in their match v Central in the previous round, I took a journey to Palmerston North to have a closer look at and pay some attention to Central as they played Auckland. The visitors won’t be appearing in Capital during the round-robin fixtures, so I paid some attention to them too.

There was only one goal last week, but I saw six this week:

Auckland opened the scoring after quarter of an hour. Hannah Blake played the ball to Erinna Wong on the left. The cross reached Tayla O’Brien in the centre who got between the centre backs and powered a free header into the top-right corner.

They doubled their lead shortly after the half-hour mark. Nicole Mettam and Jacqueline Hand combined to send Steph Skilton in on goal. Her initial shot was blocked but, in the right-hand side of the goal area, it came straight back to the Auckland striker hitting her on the knee and flashing into the inside netting at the far post. 0-2.

Shortly after the second goal, Auckland had a chance for a third and, on the break, Central had their chance of the half. Hand was through the centre one-on-one with Courtney Norman. But the Central goalkeeper, outside of the penalty area, made a perfect tackle, and set Central away to the other end. However, Tilly James’ shot was easily caught by Nadia Olla in goal for Auckland.

Britney Cunningham-Lee replaced Skilton at half-time. Ten minutes into the half, she gave Auckland a 3-0 lead. Through the centre on her own, cutting past the onrushing defender, and putting her shot past Norman in goal.

It was a four-goal lead with quarter of an hour remaining. Auckland had a free kick on their right. Blake ran over the ball and Mettam crossed to the far post. Norman failed to gain full control of the ball and in a scramble, Georgia Martin prodded it home.

In the 86th minute, Central grabbed a goal back. Amber Phillips got in front of the player she was marking to intercept, and played a one-two with James. Phillips continued her run into the penalty area and cut the ball back from the right into the centre where Aleesha Heywood (on as a Central sub) hit a first time shot into the bottom-left corner 1-4.

The fourth official signalled 5 minutes minimum stoppage time. In the first of those 5, Heywood robbed Lily Taitimu of the ball and lobbed Olla in the Auckland goal: 2-4, was a comeback a possibility?

Central kept up their late intensity, created chances and came very close to getting a third goal. In the third minute of the additional time. Martin attempted to keep the ball from going for a throw in, but only succeeded in handing possession to Central. Sophie Crewe combined with James to get a low cross sent in, which went across the face of goal with no Central player in the vicinity being able to get enough on the ball to send it in the goal.

Final score 2-4.

Central were reminiscent of the playing style of Massey University in their successful Central League days. Creating triangles out of the back to attempt to work space for a long, directed pass to one of their attacking players. Their passes weren’t smart enough and Auckland were turning the ball over at the third or fourth pass by stepping in front of the intended recipient and taking the ball. On the occasions that they completed a sequence of passes, it was the long ball which lacked the required precision and was easily mopped up by the Auckland defence.

In contrast to Central, Auckland always had more variety of passing options when building up play. There were short options as well players free at longer distances. Players such as Liz Anton had the time and space to show off their passing range.

However, for periods in the second half, Central had more variety in their play. Resulting in a handful of visionary and unexpected passes that were worthy of applause. Central had the wind behind them in 2nd half so saw more territory and possession than in the first half. They were also assisted by Auckland’s substitutions and other changes allowing them more freedom, perhaps thinking at 3 or 4 up that the game was won. Fortunately for the Aucklanders, they held off the late challenge to win, and have a place in the current top-5 who are separated by merely 3 points, after 3 or 4 matches each.

Central have not yet had the bye (that’s in the upcoming round), so have played 4 matches. Their 3 points came against Southern United (which is a great win this season), but would need a set of results to go their way to make the playoffs.

For another perspective, see the match report in the Manawatu Standard.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Phil Clayton

Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.

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