Will to win stands out for coach

Southern United wing-back Freya Partridge-Moore taps the ball on under pressure from Ellerslie...
Southern United wing-back Freya Partridge-Moore taps the ball on under pressure from Ellerslie player Tayla Hawes at Logan Park on Sunday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Southern United coach Kris Ridley was proud when his side lost to Eastern Suburbs earlier this year.

"Yes, it hurts to lose, but there’s the bigger picture to think about, and with that in mind I couldn’t be a prouder coach," he told the Otago Daily Times in September.

Imagine how thrilled he is now.

Southern have not lost a game since then and have qualifed for the National League final for the first time.

They will play Auckland United at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Sunday.

It is a huge feat for the regional team, who only came together at the start of the league, compared with the Auckland sides who have been together all season.

"I think people can take note now and actually give us a bit of respect," Ridley said.

"We are a good footballing team and we’ve just shown that all season, week after week.

"Even when we don’t play our best, we come away with the results, and only good teams do that."

Southern have proved their worth time and time again this season and it was their desire to win that stood out to Ridley the most.

"The girls are turning up now and going ‘we can beat anyone’. For me, that’s unreal.

"I think in the past we’ve sort of turned up and people haven’t really respected us and we’ve been on the end of quite a few goals in the back of the net.

"But the mindset now should be from the girls, and women, playing in the region that you can beat the top teams in the country, and they’ve proved that."

Southern have produced seven wins this season and beaten some formidable opponents.

They thumped newcomers Phoenix Reserves 5-0 to get their streak rolling and added to that momentum with an outstanding 3-2 win over Kate Sheppard Cup champions Western Springs.

Those were followed by wins over Wellington United (1-0), Canterbury United Pride (2-1), Waterside Karori (3-0), Central (4-1) and Ellerslie (3-0).

Southern also had a 1-1 draw against Auckland United, making for a good matchup in Sunday’s final, Ridley said.

"We were pretty proud to play anyone in the grand final. Just to get there was the main focus.

"We’ve ticked that off now, but the girls want to actually win it.

"They’re not just happy with going to the grand final — they want to come away with some points.

"But in saying that, whatever happens from now, it doesn’t matter."