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Technically a Cupset

Kate Sheppard Cup Semi Final 1: Wellington United Diamonds 2, Dunedin Technical 4
Newtown Park, Wellington, 25 August 2018
– Ella Reilly  

That the two indisputably best teams from Dunedin and Wellington should meet in the first Kate Sheppard Cup semi final, and that the winner of this match would be making their maiden appearance in the final, represented a match befitting the relaunch of Aotearoa New Zealand’s top women’s club competition.

Wellington United, over recent years, have become one of the capital’s strongest women’s football clubs. Thanks to the dedication of the club to support head coach Guillermo Schiltenwolf’s distinctive playing philosophy and five year plan – see ITBOTN’s pal Dave Webster’s recently published history of the club for more – recent years have seen Wellington United players achieve representative honours in the National Women’s League, national age group teams, the full Football Ferns, as well as a relationship developed with PEC Zwolle to enable players to experience a professional environment. If anybody’s wondering, what Wellington United have achieved is a testament to what can be achieved in the local women’s game when given the respect, backing, time and infrastructure needed to grow.

Dunedin Technical arrived in Wellington with a rapidly growing reputation themselves, having the enviable record of only losing one league game over the last four years. They reached last year’s semi finals (knocked out by eventual winners Glenfield Rovers), making them the first Football South side to make this stage of the competition. Occasional ITBOTN contributor Morgan Jarvis wrote at the time of Tech’s domination of the Southern Premier League, contributed to by a lack of depth in the competition, which saw the South Island side unsure of how it would stack up against more seasoned cup competitors. It’s for reasons such as this that the Kate Sheppard Cup is such an important competition in the New Zealand football calendar, enabling teams to test themselves outside their regular competitions, and see how their local dominance translates to the national level.

When on form, the Diamonds ruthlessly cut through their opposition. I can tell you this first hand; it’s how they turfed my Vic Uni side out of the Kate Sheppard Cup in round two. They did, however, begin this game lacking some of the composure that had seen them dominate Wellington football this year. Perhaps they were a little guilty of trying to overplay things which, when pressed, left them vulnerable to a mistake.

Tech, by comparison, looked dangerous on a swift counter attack. happy to let United play themselves into a corner without creating chances, and taking advantage of any resultant slip ups to have a pop on goal although the few early shots resembled more of a warm up as they went straight to United keeper Ronisa Lipi.

Yet the Diamonds struck first with quarter of an hour on the clock as Michaela Robertson’s dart down the left wing and cut back was spilled by Tech keeper Jade Middleditch, for Dani Ohlsson to prod home. Tech equalised shortly after through Emily Morison, capitalising on some confusion in the box. A second Tech goal, this time set up by Morison and scored by Lara Wall, took the teams into half time at 2-2.

The Diamonds celebrate taking an early lead.

If Tech had looked sharpest in the first half, buoyed by their vocal (if outnumbered) supporters in the Newtown Park stand, the Diamonds determinedly wrenched the energy back to begin the second half. A slick movement from kick-off released Suzanne Giesen released to score the Diamonds’ equaliser.

The game settled back into a more ponderous cat and mouse affair. Murmurings in the stand that “one goal will win it” proved unfounded, however, as Tech found their second wind and their two second half goals in the last 15 minutes, again from Morison and Wall. The South Islanders backed up their early dominance to become the deserved first Kate Sheppard Cup finalists for 2018.

Tech celebrates making their first ever Kate Sheppard Cup final.

It’s been exciting to be part of the Kate Sheppard Cup this year – as a player, as a supporter, and as a writer. Being able to test yourself against and then watch and cover some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s best local women’s club teams play is always a privilege. The geographical spread represented in this semi final, which has carried through to the final, is also a testament to the talented players throughout the country, and the wonderful work being done to develop the women’s game throughout the country. If you care to look for it, you will see it.   

Photo credits: Dr Yomcat shoots – www.facebook.com/yomcatshoots/

 

Kate Sheppard Cup Semi Final 2: Glenfield Rovers 1, Forrest Hill Milford 3
McFetridge Park, North Shore, 26 August 2018
– Helena Wiseman

Here is the first draft of this match report:

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There is little point in pretending at objectivity for this report. I was not a neutral at the semi-final on Sunday between Glenfield Rovers and Forrest Hill. I play for Forrest Hill. They are my second family, and I wanted them to win.

But whilst perhaps not a neutral, I was still aware that Forrest Hill were not the favourites. Glenfield had lifted the league trophy only a week prior. They’d bested Forrest in their last meeting, and they undoubtedly benefited from being able to keep a fairly consistent squad each week. By contrast, the team that started for Forrest Hill on Sunday was an entirely new combination of players. And, as is so often talked about, Forrest brought a young team to McFetridge-over half of the match day squad is headed off to tournament next week. So yes, on paper, Glenfield would have had this one. They were on their home pitch, with a strong team and the best kind of momentum. Yet another place in the final looked well within their reach.

Forrest Hill, however, showed up, showed their talent – and showed zero regard whatsoever for any script.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that McFetridge Park was Forrest Hill’s home ground on Sunday. The entire bank of spectators screamed for Forrest, many wearing black. There were other NRFL teams, also lending their voices to the Swans.

And on the field, the underdog tag seemed to suit Forrest Hill just fine. From the first minute the determination and grit they had brought with them across the motorway was clear. They attacked with intent and the formation change that had been in the works for weeks came into its own, as Glenfield took a while to assess the role of the wingbacks. Their first goal was totally in line with the way the first 18 minutes went, and it showed Jane Barnett’s class. One on one with an advancing Alice Noyer, the Forrest striker waited for the keeper to dive before finishing beyond her. It was the start of quite a day for Jane.

Hat trick hero Jane Barnett with some fans. And Helena. Credit: Talisha Green

As Forrest kept pushing with unrelenting intensity, Jane secured a hat trick: her second was a long-range screamer and her third, a dinked finish beyond the keeper. Glenfield did score through Liz Savage and began to launch more attacks in the dying minutes, but Forrest were never letting the result slip. Every single player ran themselves into the ground and Forrest thoroughly deserved the result.

There will be those who describe Sunday as an upset, but Forrest will not be amongst them. I know, so I can say, that what happened was the result of months of preparation, and of a team that is much more like a family deciding that they were going to fight like anything to earn a spot in the final. I am obviously biased, but I think it is fair of me to say that there is a special culture at Forrest this year, and it will be well worth a trip to QBE Stadium on the 9th.

 

This year saw the Women’s Knockout Cup renamed and relaunched as the Kate Sheppard Cup on International Women’s Day to commemorate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

The 2018 Kate Sheppard Cup Final kicks off at 12 pm at QBE Stadium in Albany on Sunday 9 September. Under 16s get in free, adult tickets are $10.

Categories: NZ Kate Sheppard Cup Women's kōrero

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Hella Wisely

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