Defending champions the Canterbury United Pride will host the Northern Lights in a repeat of last year’s National Women’s League final after securing top spot to book home advantage.
Due to the inclement weather, Canterbury’s clash against Auckland was actually the only game to be played in the final weekend of the regular season with the local derby between Central and Capital being postponed while play started between WaiBOP and Northern but had to be abandoned at half-time with the score nil-all.
Needing just a point to lock down a home final, the Pride took on an Auckland side who still had a slim mathematical chance of extending their own season but needed a huge away win and for the Lights to suffer an upset in Cambridge.
As it was, they couldn’t take care of their own side of the bargain as goals from Gabi Rennie and Whitney Hepburn earned a 2-0 win for Canterbury, rewarding the large home support that turned out by earning another game at English Park next Sunday.
Auckland were desperately looking to keep their season alive but came up against a determined Pride outfit, who poured on the pressure from the start and made it count thanks to a powerful Rennie shot from ten yards early on.
Auckland’s Ava Collins then had a potentially crucial goal ruled out for offside midway through the first half as the visitors moved the ball well and regularly asked questions of the Canterbury defence, forcing goalkeeper Una Foyle to make several saves.
Hepburn finally made the game safe for the Pride in injury time, forcing the ball home from a goal mouth scramble to start the Canterbury celebrations.
“Auckland are a quality side with quality individuals and they really tested us for 90 minutes,” admitted Canterbury coach Alana Gunn.
“But we’re really happy to get the minor premiership and a home final for our fans, friends and family – it will be a great day next Sunday. The safety net of being in the final already allowed us to be a bit fearless, try some things and shuffle things around.”
Auckland counterpart Nic Downes was disappointed to sign off on a losing note but was pleased with aspects of his team’s performance in their final outing.
“We set some goals we wanted to achieve this season and, while we ticked off a couple, third isn’t quite where we wanted to end up, so there’s some disappointment there,” he said.
“The league’s been very competitive among the top four, and the top two have showed their consistency and been able to win games across the season. That’s probably where we’ve fallen down a little bit – we’ve had too many draws and not been able to win those crucial games,” he added.
“Today, we had a patch where I thought we were moving the ball very well and retaining possession while also creating a few chances, so it’s a shame we couldn’t capitalise, otherwise it would have been a slightly different game.”
More details on the postponed and abandoned games will be provided shortly.
For the table and more information on the National Women’s League please
National Women’s League Match Week 13
Canterbury United Pride 2 (Gabi Rennie 12’, Whitney Hepburn 90 + 2’)
WaiBOP vs Northern Lights
Match abandoned at half-time with the score 0-0
Central vs Capital
Postponed due to inclement weather and road closures
BYE – Southern United