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A proud day

Canterbury United Pride 4
Capital Football 0

National Women’s League
16 September 2018
English Park, Christchurch

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

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First weekend of the National Women’s League, and another match featuring teams with expectations. Canterbury through weight of recent tradition, organisation and effort put into the club, against Capital who had added another Football Fern, with Anna Green accompanying Sarah Gregorius with senior international honours.

Capital have the continuity of coaching staff of Emma Evans and Sam Morrissey, the Pride have transitioned in a new head coach, Alana Gunn, but had been preparing the squad for several months.

It was the Pride who looked the more settled squad and worked better as a unit, and Annalie Longo was the Football Fern who shone in this game.

The Pride opened the scoring in the fifteenth minute. An inswinging corner from the left by Macey Fraser went to the near-post. A Whitney Hepburn challenge resulted in the ball dropping to the ground to be poked in at the second attempt by Longo.

In the 28th minute, the Pride doubled their lead when Fraser played the ball to Jayda Stewart. The attacking midfielder turned and played a diagonal pass from centre to left, sending Longo through on goal. A second goal for Longo as she shot low across the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 to the Pride.

Midway through the half, Gregorius attempted to spin past Annie Gilchrist. But the Pride defender recovered in time to block for a corner. Maya Hahn sent the corner in for Capital. Tessa McPherson, at the far-post, deflected the ball into the air and the ball bounced on top of the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.

The Pride were physically stronger in central midfield with Hepburn and Longo winning their battles with Hahn and Kelsi Rutene. Hepburn was also getting the better of Kennedy Bryant.

The Pride decision-making on the ball was better than Capital’s. When to pass, play a through-ball, or take a player on meant that the Pride were creating chances or retaining possession. For Capital, through-balls had nobody running on to them when their forwards were expecting a ball to feet; attempts to take on players were met with challenges or being forced wide.

The pace of Monique Barker and Gabrielle Rennie up front for the Pride was causing the Capital defence problems, last-ditch defending often required from McPherson and Green sliding in to make blocks. Stewart played behind the Pride front two, with Longo having a free role to find space to receive the ball. Fraser and Hepburn played deeper in midfield.

The Pride played the game quite narrow; happy for Capital to always have an outlet deep and wide at right-back in Katie Barrott, who was given much time on the ball, but often found her options limited.

In last season’s match, Tahlia Herman-Watt was giving Katie Barrott a tough time on Pride’s left-hand side. There wasn’t much to see of this battle this year, Herman-Watt as initially being kept quiet by Jemma Robertson (who beat her marker a couple of times) before settling for a deeper position than last year. In the last ten minutes of the match, Herman-Watt moved to midfield following a tactical sub.

Within the first minute of the second-half the Pride had a 3-0 lead. Longo crossing from the right, for Rennie to shoot in at the far-post.

Seven minutes later it was 4-0, a cross from the left was reached first by Barker who under challenge manged to prod the ball past the goalkeeper into the net.

The Pride made some attacking substitutions with Cody Taylor and Arna Roberts replacing Barker and Rennie respectively. Roberts almost increased the lead with her first touches as she received the ball from Taylor, but her shot was saved by Courtney Norman in the Capital goal. The Pride had several other such chances to increase the lead but were unable to place the ball past Norman, with the keeper making several saves from shots too close to her.

Capital made some defensive reshuffles, some tactical, some injury related. Rosie Wild came on at the hour mark to replace Robertson, with Green moving from central defence to left-back. McPherson suffered on injury ten minutes later and was replaced by Asha Strom. A couple of minutes later, Wild was carried off injured and was replaced by Sarah Alder; Green moving back to the centre of defence.

If Capital can recover from those injuries, they will surely improve. The players will spend more time working out their combinations, improving their decision making as instinctual play will become easier. They’ll need to step-up physically in midfield, and work on plans to cover pace at the back, but they looked like a team that will improve, not one that is beaten for the season.

If there was a move in the game that typified the match it was in the 4th minute of stoppage time. Longo found space in her own half to be able to receive the ball. She ran with the ball into the opposing penalty area before her shot was blocked. This move was an examplar of Longo’s ability to find space, supported by the vision and decision-making of the Pride defender to play the ball to her, and Longo’s decision and ability to make the run to the penalty area. A star performance from the Football Fern. Supported by a more than capable cast, and coaching staff, who had the home side well-prepared. A proud day for the home team.

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

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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