Eastern Suburbs Women stayed on track in second but were made to work for their 3-1 win over Souths United Women at Heath Park on Saturday night.
The hosts had to wait until deep into the second half to secure all three points as Jenna McCormick’s brace ensured they kept pace with the league-leading Palm Beach SC Women.
Easts started promisingly with a couple of opportunities which prolific striker Tegan Riding was unable to convert.
Defender McCormick was instead relied upon to open the scoring as the former Adelaide United Player of the Year finished into the bottom corner following a defensive error to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute.
Tessa Hunt had the first real chance for the visitors on the stroke of half time when she was put through on goal but her shot was straight at Tash Mavrick.
Easts were able to extend their advantage immediately after the resumption as Ashlee Watkins found Natalie Mueller, who scored at the second attempt after initially being foiled by Souths ‘keeper Lara Boon.
However, the away side provided an unexpected response in swift fashion as a wayward McCormick pass allowed Hunt to squeeze a seemingly harmless shot under Mavrick to pull it back to 2-1.
Easts weren’t about to let second spot slip, though, and efforts from Riding, Mueller and Chantelle Ryder signalled intent, while a Mueller cross-shot in the 63rd minute struck the crossbar.
Michaela Hatzirodos and Sarah Ryan might also have done better as Garrath McPherson’s team peppered the away side’s goal.
The home side finally restored their two-goal cushion with only a few minutes remaining as Susanne McKeen’s cross was handballed in the area, seeing McCormick step up to convert her second of the evening and seal Easts’ 3-1 win.
Speaking after the match, Easts coach Garrath McPherson was satisfied with three points but felt conceding a sloppy goal “soured the win slightly.”
“Players leave happy enough but at the same time probably knowing they could have done a little bit more,” he said.
Having tested one of the competition’s top-two outfits, Souths coach Byron Hellmuth was full of praise for his players.
“The performance of our team is something we have been looking to achieve throughout this season,” Hellmuth said.
Eastern Suburbs Women 3 (Jenna McCORMICK 27’, p.87’ Natalie MUELLER 46’)
Souths United Women 1 (Tessa HUNT 50’)