Auckland pip Southern in thriller

Auckland Football and Southern United played out a seven-goal thriller at Tahuna Park to finish off their 2016 National Women’s League campaigns.

A pair of quick-fire goals inside the first 25 minutes to young Britney Cunningham Lee and Isabella Richards put Auckland in control early on – on the score board at least.

Southern weren’t without their chances with Renee Bacon going close on a couple of occasions before Tessa Leong increased Auckland’s advantage to 3-0 just before the half hour mark.

Bacon finally made amends for her missed chances, with a powerful drive past Ashleigh Emery in goal with 10 minutes to go in the first half.

Southern were soon back in the game when Kate Guildford reduced the deficit to one heading home from a Mikayla Gray cross with five minutes to go in the half.

Southern started the second half as they finished the first, with Gray going close with some dazzling skill before Bacon netted her second and the equaliser on the 59th minute mark from a long range free kick that went in off the post.

It was game on with half an hour to play. Both sides went close, with 15-year old Cunningham-Lee looking particularly threatening, but it was substitute Annie Byrne who netted the winner for Auckland with five minutes to play to deny Hayley Stirling and her team their first point of the 2016 campaign.

Auckland coach Tracy Wrigley mentioned pre match that the windy conditions at Tahuna Park could play a factor, and so it did.

“It almost was a game of two halves,” says Wrigley.

“We had the win behind us in the first half and subsequently popped in three goals. Then Southern had that benefit and took advantage too.”

“It probably became a game of missed opportunities. Both sides had lots of scoring opportunities. I think we probably had around double digits that you’d expect to put in and I’m pretty sure Hayley would feel the same way.”

With the season now over for Wrigley and her charges, there are many positives to take away despite coming up short of a play-off spot.

“One of our aims was to be more of an attacking force, last season we only scored six. Obviously we have conceded a lot more goals or we would have more points to our name but we have put in ten more goals, which is really positive,” says Wrigley

“Another positive is that every player in the squad has taken the field this year, and that’s been generally in a planned way. People have all contributed. We had 10 players involved in the New Zealand U-20’s so they weren’t here but we’ve got these young players now getting a taste for the National Women’s League and I think for Auckland at least, some of the players have been exposed to this which is definitely a good sign for the future.”

“Four of our squad will be taking part in the National Age Group tournament in December,” she adds.

One of those players heading to Wellington in December is Papatoetoe youngster Cunningham Lee who netted her first National Women’s League goal today, a goal she set herself at the start of the season.

“It feels pretty good (to score), especially coming in the last game, I now achieved the goal I set for myself.”

“I was waiting by the back post and a cross came in, I controlled it with my chest and volleyed it into the far corner.”

Cunningham Lee will be joined by Jenna Dodd, Maisy Dewell and Milly McWhirter.

Match Information

Southern United 3-4 Auckland Football
Southern: 33’, 61’ Bacon, 40’ Guildford
Auckland: 5’ Cunningham-Lee, 22’ Richards, 28’ Leong, 86’ Byrne

Southern: Taylor-Lynch, Dijkstra, Walker, Gilchrist, Kennard, Wall, Johnstone, White (74’ White), Guildford (78’ Lee), Bacon, Gray

Auckland: Emery, Martin, Toailoa, Philpot, L Mettam (63’ Dodd), N Mettam (46’ Bloomfield), Jackson (46’ Dewell), Richards (63’ Kraakman), Millynn, Cunningham-Lee, Leong (37’ Byrne)