South West Phoenix Firebirds returned to Bunbury on Sunday bruised, battered, and with injuries.
The side gained three crucial points, giving them a firm grip on top spot of the division one ladder.
The Firebirds beat second-placed Wanneroo City 1-0 to move three points clear.
They still have a game in hand and could potentially move two games ahead.
Playing on a windy day and on a poor, choppy surface which didn’t suit Firebirds passing style, it was always going to be a tight match.
Wanneroo City had the bulk of possession but created very few clear-cut chances, while Firebirds’ pace going forward was always going to cause Wanneroo problems.
After a tight start, Firebirds took the lead midway through the first half.
Firebirds’ wonderful, flowing counter-attack started with Eliza Griffiths winning the ball inside her own penalty area, then releasing to Jen Hazledon who turned brilliantly and played in Courtney Butlion.
Butlion played on for partner-in-crime Eleanor Coventry, who used her pace to break free. Coventry’s goal gave Firebirds a 1-0 lead.
Coventry and Butlion were a constant menace throughout the first half, with Wanneroo unable to match their pace and movement.
However, Coventry was forced out of the game before half time with what looks to be a serious shoulder injury that could have massive repercussions for the rest of the season.
The second half became a real grind for Firebirds, as Wanneroo enjoyed possession but again struggled to make in-roads.
Analeise Gibaut, Asha McClurg, Kashia King (awarded Firebirds’ Player of the Match), and Eliza Griffiths held firm while Goalkeeper Dayle Schroeder was in control of everything that came her way.
Firebirds missed the pacy outlet that Coventry provides, but closed the game out with minimal fuss.
The win was crucial in many contexts for Firebirds, having now beaten Wanneroo twice in Perth this year.
“It wasn’t the cleanest game, as the pitch made it near-impossible to pass with confidence, but our defensive organisation was outstanding and key to the win,” Firebirds coach Stephen Suttie said.
“Our destiny is in our own hands now so hopefully we can keep pushing forward.”
Firebirds are away to Curtin University this week, but have a mounting injury list.
Katie McDermott has a long-term injury, while star striker Coventry is in doubt with a shoulder injury.
With six games to go, Firebirds require a maximum of four wins and one draw to secure the league title, regardless of how other results go.
The South West Phoenix men’s league team also succeeded on the weekend, scraping home to a 3-2 win over Ashfield at WML Stadium.