Capital match looms large for Southern Utd

Southern Utd coach Graeme Smaill. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Southern Utd coach Graeme Smaill. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The significance of this Saturday’s game is not lost on Graeme Smaill.

Southern United’s coach freely acknowledges the return match against Capital is "huge" in the context of the women’s South Central Series.

It follows a 1-0 win over the same opponent in Wellington a week ago.

That result capped a perfect first round of the four-team league, which is being played in lieu of a national league due to Auckland’s alert level restrictions.

Included in that were away wins against Canterbury United and Capital.

That leaves both having to topple Southern in Dunedin, if either is to snatch top spot.

Capital, which trails Southern by three points, looms this weekend.

A Southern win would open a six-point gap at the top of the table, with two matches to play.

A Capital win would leave both teams tied on nine points, with Canterbury likely to move to six against Central.

Perhaps the only disappointment is the absence of the Auckland teams, which this year were to be club-based teams that qualified through winter leagues.

Smaill was not dwelling on that, though, and said the team was still focusing on one game at a time.

"When you’ve got a bigger competition it’s always more difficult to front up week after week," he said.

"When you get the start we’ve got, it’s always easy to look at it like ‘gee, it would be great to have them in, we’d be right up there for a national title’.

"But we’re still a long way from clinching or winning this South Central Series.

"This weekend’s huge for us. If we can get a win this week, then that really puts us in the box seat.

"It’s going to be pretty tough. Capital will know that and they’ll be doing all they can to get three points this week."

It would show the transformation of Southern over the past five years in full.

Up until 2017, when it made the national league playoffs for the first time, it had come off 10 years in which it won just one game.

It has been competitive since then, but this season has taken that to another level.

The success has been built off a team effort.

The majority of its starting line-up has been together for several years, while newcomers Amy Simmers and Margarida Dias have both added quality.

Its six goals have been scored by six different players and it has threats all over the park.

Smaill said the team’s work rate had been fantastic too, its players having average over 10km of running per game.

The defence had also shown plenty of grit and that had been pleasing.

However, Smaill felt the team needed to start retaining possession better rather than "riding its luck".

Despite that, he said it was still creating plenty of chances, despite often playing with less ball.

"Defensively they’ve been massive.

"On the flip side, even though we haven’t had a lot of possession, we’ve created a lot of clear-cut chances.

"If you look at last week’s game, yes, Capital had more ball. But I think we had more clear-cut chances.

"So I think that’s a positive for us that we can still get into those attacking spaces, and cause the opposition problems when we do have the ball."

Saturday’s game kicks off at noon at Logan Park Turf.


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