One hurdle too many for Central
The win Central needed to reach the national women's football league semifinals was a bridge too far, as they lost their last round-robin game to Mainland at Memorial Park yesterday.
Central needed a win or a draw to progress but lost 6-1 to the Christchurch side so Capital will qualify.
Central coach Simon Lees was gutted with the result, which meant their season was over.
"I think to be honest we obviously had our big match last week when we got up over Capital," Lees said.
"We ran out of legs. We conceded three goals in the last five minutes and ran out of gas.
"It's been a really long season for everyone involved. It's a disappointing note to end on."
Central had trailed 2-0 before Jane Barnett grabbed one back to make it 2-1 at halftime.
But in the second half, things didn't go their way and Mainland scored late goals to consolidate the top spot in the southern conference.
"The girls carried on fighting," Lees said.
"It definitely wasn't a lack of heart or anything but they ran out of steam."
The last time Central made the playoffs was in 2004.
"Absolutely gutted. They worked very, very hard this year to try and get to the semis for the first time for a while," Lees said.
Central had targeted a win to ensure they stayed ahead of Capital but they couldn't get through the solid Mainland defence.
"At times our final chance or final run just wasn't there."
Hollie Cleaver, in defence, and striker Emma Boyack were Lees' best players this season, and Cleaver put in another big game yesterday.
Boyack, with eight goals this season, managed only five minutes off the bench because of a knee injury. Lees didn't think her absence made a difference though, because Mikaela Boxall did a good job up front.
Many of Central's players were in Lees' Massey club side who won the Central League and reached the final of the national knockout competition this year.
Mainland 6 Central 1 (Jane Barnett). HT: 2-1.
The Manawatu Standard