Southern earn respect of opposition coach

Southern United players gearing up for the National League final tomorrow are (from left) Hannah...
Southern United players gearing up for the National League final tomorrow are (from left) Hannah MacKay-Wright, Lauren Paterson, Rose Morton, Raegan Potter, Margi Dias, Amy Simmers. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Auckland United head coach Ben Bate admires his opponents.

His side settled for a 1-1 draw against Southern United during the round robin, and will face them again in the National League final at Mt Smart tomorrow.

"We’re confident that if we perform to our best that we’ll give Southern a really good game," Bate told the Otago Daily Times.

"We know that they’re obviously a real tough team to break down, we’ve been on the other side of that this year obviously with the draw.

"Lots to hopefully improve on for the game for both sides and hopefully it creates a better game for the final as well."

While other teams wrote Southern off this season, Bate took his hat off to the regional-based team, who have built over the past few years and aligned with the University of Otago to bring players to the region.

"There’s obviously a real strong attempt down there to build something.

"It’s an important pathway I feel for all the regions of the country and for Southern as well, having that representation . . .hopefully there’s some young girls down in Dunedin, Invercargill, wherever who can watch players represent there in a final which is a pretty cool thing."

Bate conceded other results helped them get to the final — including wooden spoon Ellerslie beating defending champions Eastern Suburbs, which also helped Southern — but said they had beaten the teams they should have.

"A little bit of good luck as always, got to use that where it comes, and some strong performances and scoring a lot of goals ultimately has got us into the big dance."

But Auckland has been one of the most consistent sides, after winning the Auckland Northern League, and also boasts several youth international players.

Bree Johnson has also been strong, leading the team with five goals.

Auckland will play their 26th game of the season in the final — more than twice as many as Southern, who came together at the start of the National League, and for whom the final will be just their 10th match.

"We’ve obviously had the benefit of a really decent lead-in time to be able to build those relationships and connections between players."