Capital 3, Southern United 1
Petone Memorial Park, October 27, 2018
I’ve probably said it close to a hundred times now, and I’ll no doubt say it another hundred times before the season’s out, but thank goodness for the double round of the NWL.
It usually takes a few weeks for the sides to really settle into the rhythms of season, and for Capital that’s particularly proved to be the case. While squads such as Southern and Northern are perhaps a little more homogenous, in that most of their players come from only a couple of clubs, squads like Capital’s are split by six. Unsurprisingly, That takes time. That time is now.
We’re also at the stage of the season where each each game really matters. Capital and Southern opened the week seven games both urgently needing to take all three points in order to keep in touching distance of the NWL’s leading pack. Southern had started the campaign the stronger of the two federations, but were fresh off two 3-1 defeats to runaway leaders Canterbury United Pride in the double-header weekend. Capital, meanwhile, had endured a disrupted start to the season but were fresh from a bye that same weekend, providing a brief respite after their late win over WaiBOP a fortnight ago, which had in turn come off the back of an encouraging draw with reigning champs AFF.
The question for Southern leading into this game then was whether they could overcome the disappointment of the double header weekend to haul their season back on track. The question for Capital was whether they’d turned a corner and settled into a new gear for the rest of the season.
Any doubts that the bye weekend might have disrupted Capital’s newfound rhythm were dispelled at the very first whistle. Cap quickly turned over possession from the Southern kickoff, with only a well-timed block from former Capital player-turned Southern captain Mikaela Hunt denying the home side a dramatic opener; setting the tone for a game marked by its physicality and rapid possession turnover.
Unsurprisingly, then, the scoring opened early, with Sarah Gregorius finishing after a surging run from the halfway line, beating what felt like half the Southern side as Meisha Boone dragged the Southern defence open with her crossover run.
Not that there was much time for Capital to enjoy being in the driving seat, as Southern equalised a minute later through a deadly Shontelle Smith free kick. As the game settled into its rhythms, Southern for a time looked the more likely scorers of the game’s third goal; with Capital saved by the crossbar from Georgia Brown’s thunderous volley midway through the half, and Courteney Norman on hand to produce some alert saves.
Capital’s newfound fluidity was perhaps best exhibited in their second goal, with Gregorius winning the ball and laying off to Maya Hahn, whose composure and carefully timed pass released Anna McPhie to score on her Capital debut five minutes before half time.
Make no mistake, this was a competitive game, reflecting the urgent need of both sides to get a result. Tackles were flying in, aided by the slick, drizzly pitch. Capital’s Anna Green was the first player to go into the book in the first half, later taking out a photographer after giving chase down the wing.
Southern were reduced to ten players in the second half after a late tackle from Renee Bacon on Gregorius saw her get her marching orders from referee Sarah Jones. To Southern’s credit, at no point in the remainder of the match did you really notice the numerical disadvantage, and at no point did their heads drop – such was the tenacity that they continued to display as they searched for an equaliser. Capital’s Molly Woodhead and Asha Strom, however, proved too resolute in Capital’s defence.
The final goal came in the 84th minute, with Gregorius netting her second of the game and possibly not knowing a huge amount about it, getting buffeted about as she rose to meet the header, and Capital eased into their second 3-1 win on the bounce.
While the result will frustrate Southern, and has mathematically put a big dent in their hunt for a finals place, they are absolutely still in it. Their performance, particularly after playing half an hour with only ten players, still keeps them in the hunt for a finals spot. As several others have already pointed out, they’re probably the best-placed federation for the games during the international window, not losing any players to the under 17s World Cup or the World Cup qualifiers. How Capital will fare is less clear cut. With a talented squad that’s already had to navigate disruption this season, in a sense they’ve been prepared to adapt to the challenges of losing key players at this stage of the season. Time will tell.
Thanks to Rosa Stewart for the photos. You can see more from the game on Rosa’s Facebook page, Rosa Posa Photographs, here.
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.