You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Southern United have silenced their critics and created their own piece of football history, booking their spot in the National Women’s League final next weekend.
They beat Ellerslie 3-0 at Logan Park yesterday to finish second on the table, but equal on points with top side Auckland United, who they will face in Auckland on Sunday.
It has been a remarkable rise for Southern throughout the season, winning seven games, drawing one and losing one — the latter in the opening round back in September against defending champions Eastern Suburbs — and cementing their place as one of the best.
The final is a massive milestone for the regional team, who only came together for the national league, compared to the league’s club teams, who have more than 20 games together under their belt this season.
Led by captain Rose Morton, Southern has blended into a well-drilled team this season, who have worked hard with a never-say-die attitude and ground out gutsy wins.
Knowing they needed to win to make the final, Southern set a frantic pace as they searched for their opening goal against Ellerslie.
Kendrah Smith’s chance hit the cross bar, Freya Partridge-Moore’s shot slid down the side and Amy Hislop’s attempt was saved, all in the opening 15 minutes.
They created chance after chance, but their accuracy and finishing touches were lacking as they battled to find their flow.
Hislop had another just before the 20 minute mark but was deemed offside, before it was Ellerslie’s turn to put Southern under the pump.
Ellerslie, who finished bottom of the table with just one win against Eastern, brought the ball down and banged a long ball into goal.
Southern goalkeeper Lauren Patterson found herself out of the goal, with the ball hitting the crossbar and bounced down.
Leigh Aitken gathered the ball in the box and was on target, but Patterson leapt in the air and threw her right hand up, deflecting the ball over the goal and making the save of the game.
Spurred on by the stunning save, Southern finally found their groove and broke through on the 30th minute.
Hislop shifted it to the left to Abby Rankin, but she sent it flying out to the right to meet Morton at the top of the box.
Morton chipped it centre to Margi Dias, who made the finish look easy, banging it in the back of the net and double fist-pumping the air in delight.
Their opening goal gave them confidence and they nabbed their second six minutes later.
Partridge-Moore put in a nice cross to goal, but narrowly missed Bee Park’s header attempt.
Instead it skimmed over Park and found Smith in the backspace, who scored to increase Southern’s lead to 2-0 at the break.
It was a messy second half as Southern tried to find another goal to ensure a good win.
But Ellerslie pressured them, and Southern let their opponents force them into mistakes, struggling to maintain possession.
Defender Hannah Mackay-Wright was strong at the back, keeping Ellerslie out, and Toni Power was strong too, bringing the ball down the right several times to set Southern up.
Southern were desperate to secure the win with another goal and finally got their chance when Hislop was clipped around the ankles, gaining a penalty kick.
Goalkeeper Petra Wedlake saved Hislop’s attempt, but was deemed to have come off the line too early, giving Hislop another chance.
She did not make the same mistake again and scored to give her team a 3-0 win.
National Women’s League
Southern United 3
Margi Dias 30’, Kendrah Smith 36’, Amy Hislop 90’