Abby Crawley [left, foreground] … prolific goal scorer. PHOTO/FILE

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Dalefield coach Michael O’Connor is predicting a ding-dong battle with Hutt United in the Wellington women’s premier championship final qualifier at the National Hockey Stadium today.

The winners will go directly to the final on Saturday, September 26, while the losers will have a must-win clash with the victors of the third-fourth playoff between Harbour City and
Northern United.

Dalefield’s only losses this season have been to Hutt, the first 3-4, and the second 0-1.

O’Connor said it would be good to get the job done this weekend.

“It’s going to be a tough ask, they’ve beaten us twice now, but I think we can be pretty positive and we’re going to give them a good run for their money,” he said.

“Both teams defend pretty well, and they both attack hard out, so we’re looking forward to having a good tough game with them.”

O’Connor was aware of the threat posed by Hutt’s key players, in particular former Black Stick Aniwaka Roberts.

“She’ll play all over the turf. She’ll start off at the back or midfield and then sometimes you find she is right up in the attacking circle.

“She moves around as she sees fit so you can’t stack all her cards on her, as they have got other players who play quite well,” he said.

“We need to contain her but only with one of our players and not get sucked into having two or three girls go on her at once.

“In the last game, the one moment that we slacked off, one player got loose in the circle and she slotted that goal – that was the difference between the two teams.”

Dalefield will be without former Black Stick Felicity Reidy, who is struggling with a concussion suffered in their most recent clash with Hutt.

Reidy was part of the 2019 championship winning Harbour City team, and although her experience and eye for goals will be missed, O’Connor said there is plenty of cover.

“We’ve got four strikers who are still doing the business.

“Abby Crawley, one of our schoolgirls, is our second highest goal scorer on 14, so we’re not short of people who can do the business up front.”

Little separates the two teams, and like many must-win games it could be the best defence that decides the outcome.

“I think our midfielders and halves are doing a great job, and our halves and our backs are working really hard when we are on defence, they stop everything they can,” O’Connor said.

“We’ve got a fantastic little team, and we’re just going to have to hope that we come out on top this time.”

Victory would have Dalefield progress to their first final since 2017 – a game they won to secure their second consecutive championship.