Dunedin Technical have made history today when they won the inaugural NZ Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup for the first time.
The Graeme Smaill coached team, who were the first team from Football South to make the final of New Zealand’s premier women’s knockout competition, dominated the match from the outset and won the final on the back of a commanding first half performance.
Tech scored four goals – from Mikaela Hunt (2), Lara Wall and Emily Morison – in an impressive first half showing to take a 4-1 lead into the break. It proved to be the defining period of the match.
Forrest Hill Milford United, the favourites to lift the trophy for a second time, fought hard to get back into the game with a couple of fine goals from former Football Ferns striker Jane Barnett, but Dunedin Technical were good enough to hold on for a memorable win in the fine and cold conditions at QBE Stadium in Auckland.
Smaill, the Dunedin Technical Head Coach, said lifting the trophy was a special moment for the club in his swansong season.
“This is massive for us. We have a pretty proud history. We have our centenary in 2020, we have won the Chatham Cup once and been the loser in the final on two occasions, but this is just fantastic for our club. There is a bit of heritage there, but not in the women’s game so this means a lot,” he said.
Shontelle Smith, who drove most of Tech’s attacking play from midfield and set up two of their goals, was named as the player of the final and the recipient of the Maia Jackman Trophy.
“This means the world,” said the 21-year-old. “We came up here and thought that if we play our best and get beaten then that is ok, but we played our best and we won. This is huge for female players in Football South because we don’t get a lot of recognition and hopefully this will change that.”
Smith said she found it hard to believe when she watched the team score four goals in the opening 45 minutes and get off to a dream start.
“I was in a little bit of shock. I was thinking ‘Are we heading for a 6-0 score line’, but they pulled one back and it brought them and us back down to earth. We thought ‘They are still here and we hadn’t got the job done yet’. To finish it off was pretty special.”
The game started in ominous fashion for the Northern Football side when Dunedin Technical were immediately on the front foot with Chelsea Whittaker having two early chances on goal which she could not convert.
Mikaela Hunt opened the scoring for Tech in 10th minute. The 20-year-old centre back produced a powerful header from a corner kick as they took a deserved 1-0 lead.
That early strike had the Dunedin Tech fans, who had made the long trip north for the final on their feet, but there was more to come. Tech took a 2-0 lead five minutes later when forward Lara Wall went on a searching run down the left flank and then chipped the keeper for a fine goal.
Forrest Hill Milford United were reeling, but got back into the game when former Football Fern Jane Barnett found the back of the net. The forward, who scored a hat-trick in their semi-final win over Glenfield Rovers, showed her strength and produced a fine finish in the 21st minute.
Dunedin Technical were not deterred and they came back again. Five minutes later, Tech regained their two-goal cushion as Mikayla Gray showed good strength to hold off a challenge and then feed Emily Morison, who fired home for 3-1 lead.
The score line kept getting better for the southerners when Hunt notched her second with a special finish. From a free kick, the up-and-coming centre back produced a perfectly placed header which beat Emily Couchman in goal. Dunedin Technical went into the sheds on the cusp of history, but there was still a long way to go.
After the break, Barnett got Forrest Hill Milford United back into the final again with one of the best goals of the final. The 21-year-old, who was one of the standout players in the Kate Sheppard Cup Final, turned on the edge of the area and found the far top corner with a powerful strike.
The Swans, all of a sudden, had plenty of belief and looked to close the gap to within one. But Dunedin Technical did not lie down and they were unlucky in the second half to not add further goals to scoreline. Smith hit a spectacular shot from long range, only to be denied by the crossbar. In the 70th minute, Wall also hit a dangerous shot from the edge of the area which also hit the crossbar.
Forrest Hill Milord United, with their experience of the Ferns and the NZ U-20 Women, fought hard in the final 20 minutes but could not find the back of the net.
Dunedin Technical held on and made history. They were deserved winners of the inaugural NZ Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup.
NZ Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup Final
Dunedin Technical 4 (Mikaela Hunt 10’, 34’, Lara Wall 15’, Emily Morison 26’) Forrest Hill Milford United 2 (Jane Barnett 21’, 49’)