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Raising visibility

Capital Football 6

Southern United 2

National Women’s League

Sunday 26 November 2017

Petone Memorial Park

Words by Phil Clayton.
Photographs (and their captions) of this match by Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots).

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I had to choose between this match and Central v Canterbury in Palmerston North. Each match featured a team jostling for the positions 1–3 at a team already eliminated.

My usual decision format, of count the number of Coastal Spirit players and watch the match featuring the most, looked like it would win the day; Canterbury having more than Southern, but a midweek tweet from Emma Evans tipped my mind:

“It’s the little things that make a difference when it comes to raising the credibility and visibility…” referring to player of the round selections in the men’s national league.

Having already featured both Central and Canterbury in my blog posts this season. I felt that I needed to cover Southern as a team that had surprised many to become the first to qualify for the playoffs.

Southern started strong. After 90 seconds, Shontelle Smith sent a free-kick towards goal, just below the crossbar. Capital keeper Cushla Lichtwark pushed the ball onto the crossbar and got a hand to the rebound, which fell to ex-Capital player Mikaela Hunt to poke home at close range to give Southern an early lead.

It looked like Southern would start to carve-up Capital, as the hosts had a new-look defence which was being pulled out of shape by the runs off the shoulder by the Southern forwards and Smith was providing teasing through balls.

For instance, in the 7th minute, Smith played the ball through to Renee Bacon who was through one-on-one with Lichtwark out of the penalty area, but the attempted lob wasn’t hit with enough accuracy and drifted wide.

Capital had shown signs of having some attacking intent, Emma Main’s header narrowly wide. It was her who scored the equaliser in the 16th minute, after excellent work from Fran Grange on the right. Main’s shot from right-of-centre nestled low in the far corner.

It was 2-1, five minutes later. Maya Hahn played a one-two with Michaela Robertson and on receiving the ball back took touches with her feet while she figured out which foot and which corner to place it in, to give Capital the lead.

Robertson made it 3-1 just after the half-hour. The ball ricocheted off Southern defenders, and Robertson pounced with a powerful shot from a central position. 3-1.

In first-half stoppage time, Capital extended their lead. Sarah Gregorius played a diagonal ball from central to right for Main, whose cross found Libby Boobyer to prod it past the Southern keeper to make it 4-1 at half-time.

As well as a rearranged defence with some fresh faces, Capital changed their midfield and forward line. Libby Boobyer played up-front as an aggressive, pressing player. Robertson and Main were playing wide. Gregorius had dropped into midfield and had too mush time and space to be able to pick out passes such as the one which lead to the fourth goal. Capital were missing several players through injury, plus Maggie Jenkins was away with the Football Ferns in Thailand.

Southern were trying to build up from the back, with triangles wide, then setting up Smith with time and space to pick a through ball to Bacon or Ellie Isaac or Lara Wall. They were missing the presence of Elise Mamanu-Gray who was with the Ferns. Mamanu-Gray had a stormer of a game in Canterbury, and Southern missed her ability to protect the ball in midfield as well as setting-up attacks. This left the Southern backline exposed, and Capital punished in the errors in Southern’s defence.

Southern grabbed a goal back 4 minutes into the half, Hunt heading in a Smith corner at the far-post. Southern had aimed several similar corners in her direction in the first half, but this time it paid off. 4-2.

The visitors came close to grabbing another goal back. Lichtwark made a save tipping the ball over the crossbar from a Kirsty Hayr shot which followed a scramble in the goal area where the ball might have hit the post.

Southern defender, Kelsey Kennard was temporarily off the field with injury when Capital scored their fifth goal, not long after the hour. A low cross from Main on the right and a tangle of ball, Boobyer, a Southern defender, and the post, ended with Boobyer getting the decisive touch to give her 2 goals for the day.

The best goal was saved for last, as Capital sub Bex Jefferies volleyed in from a Hahn cross.

From there on, it was a procession of substitutions as Southern saw the regular season out, and Capital finished theirs. Notable for me was Southern bringing on substitute goalkeeper Mackenzie Falco to replace Tessa Nicol in the 87th minute; my tally of Coastal Spirit players seen in this match was 1.

I haven’t seen the other matches in this round, but it’s been suggested by Andrew Voerman on twitter that Jacqui Hand might be a candidate for player of the week for her last gasp winner to put Auckland into the playoffs.

Perhaps Cody Taylor’s two goals for the Pride to seal them the home grand final (v the winner of Auckland v Southern) might also have been a candidate.

Tough to pick a player from Capital v Southern as so many had good games. Perhaps there could be an award of coach of the round to Capital’s Emma Evans and Sam Morrissey for their adaption of formation and personnel which contributed to this large victory?

Words by Phil Clayton.
Photographs (and their captions) of this match by Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots).

Other perspectives

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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