South West Phoenix Firebirds dropped valuable points on Sunday with a 1-1 draw away to Curtin University.
It took a wonder strike from Nicole Suttie with 20 minutes remaining for the Firebirds to draw level, after Curtin had enjoyed a half-time lead.
Firebirds saw their lead at the top of the table cut to one point.
The side went into the match with three key players – Kashia King, Katie McDermott, and Courtney Butlion – all unavailable.
The absentees meant this was always going to be a tougher match than it looked on paper, and so it proved as the Firebirds ploughed through a very poor opening.
Curtin was quicker to the ball and more careful in keeping it, taking the lead after 15 minutes with a long-range strike.
Curtin established their ascendancy throughout the half and came close on a couple of occasions to adding to their lead but were unable to do so, as Firebirds struggled for rhythm.
After Curtin went into half time with a 1-0 lead, Firebirds stepped it up in the second half.
They took complete control of the game but, with star striker Eleanor Coventry having a rare off-day, Firebirds were often toothless in the final third.
That was until the 70th minute, when Nicole Suttie collected a wide ball, cut inside, and buried a brilliant shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
The goal lifted Firebirds, who threw everything they could at Curtin,
Curtin held out well and Firebirds were unable to grab a late winner.
The point is a handy one for Firebirds, but coach Stephen Suttie was left to lament a poor first half.
“We didn’t get at them from the start and that cost us,” he said.
“Our intensity and quality wasn’t good enough in the first half.
“In the second half, we threw everything we had at them but couldn’t quite get the rewards. A draw was a fair result.”
Firebirds might have playmaker Katie McDermott available for this week’s visit from Perth SC in what would be an injury boost.
Despite the dropped points, Firebirds remain top by one point and, crucially, with a game in hand.
Four wins in the last five matches will be enough for the Firebirds to clinch the title.