New Lambton claimed three valuable points against Warners Bay on Sunday afternoon. Image via Valentine Sports Photography.

New Lambton has taken sole control of first place in the Herald Women’s Premier League (WPL) with a 4-2 win over Warners Bay away from home, as the Eagles “dug in” to grind out the victory.

The Match of the Round clash at John Street Oval lived up to the pre-game hype of the table-topping affair, with the action kicking off early as the travelling side took an early 2-0 lead under the scorching Sunday afternoon sun.

Imogen Tusek opened the scoring with a lofted shot over Warners Bay’s defence, with the ball drifting into the top of the goalmouth. Lauren Allan doubled the Eagles’ lead just past the twenty-minute mark, with New Lambton’s dangerous winger slotting in a crossed chance from the flank.

Warners Bay showed their quality as they rose to the lofty occasion, with Shannon Day claiming one back for the home side minutes later with a curling a long shot that found the top corner. Sophie Stapleford scored a second for the Panthers to equalise just past the half-hour mark.

The away side returned to the fore in the second half, however, with Jenna Kennedy sending a drifted ball in from the right wing that found itself way into Warners Bay’s net. Georgia Amess rounded out the win with a fourth for the Eagles 55 minutes in.

The massive away win at John Street Oval puts New Lambton three points clear at the top, but coach Keelan Hamilton said he was happier with the fact his side was able to “grind out a win” on a day when they weren’t playing their best football.

“I thought it was a scrappy match from both teams, the heat made it pretty difficult to get into a rhythm,” Hamilton said.

“It was good to see we could dig in and find another way to win, especially when we weren’t clicking for our best footy of the year.”

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Despite now being the only undefeated club in the top grade, Hamilton tempered expectations for his high-flying Eagles. It’s a long road to the finals, New Lambton’s boss said, and one they have to stay stable on for the weeks to come.

“There’s a lot of football to be played, it’s good for us to know we can beat the top teams without one of our top players [in Tara Andrews], but we have some things to still learn too,” he said.

“In the first half, we didn’t deal with the periods that Warners Bay put us under pressure. I think we dealt with those periods much better in the second half, and that took a lot of the sting out of the game. We’ve shown we’re here to stay, but a week is a long time in football and we have another tough match next weekend.”

Cassidy Davis (right) felt the heavy playing load in recent weeks dulled Warners Bay in their fifth round clash. Image via Valentine Sports Photography.

Warners Bay coach Cassidy Davis, who also played the match in the Panthers’ midfield, praised her side for their determination and grit “in patches”, but said it was a big mountain to climb in the heat considering the side had missed trainings and played so many games in the past two weeks.

“So many games in 12 days has killed us, we had the game Wednesday and then didn’t get to train Friday either,” player-coach Davis said.

“All the girls felt flat because of that, but no excuse because we still need to be better.

“We fought hard in patches, and everyone was good in that aspect, but it wasn’t for the full 90 minutes and that made it hard. To her credit, Shannon tried very hard up top and chased everything down. She’s doing well.

“Every time I saw her starting to charge forward and pressure people it gave me a boost Everyone tried really hard, but we just couldn’t keep it up for the full 90 unfortunately.”

Elsewhere on Sunday afternoon, Football Mid North Coast celebrated their second straight win with a 2-nil triumph over the Rosebuds at Adamstown No.1 Oval, while South Wallsend bounced back to a 5-0 win over Thornton away from home.

Wallsend’s Libby Copus-Brown scored one in the 3-1 victory. Image via Valentine Sports Photography.

Finally, Wallsend scored a massive upset win over defending champions Merewether as the club celebrated its Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness. The Red Devils, donned in purple kits for the event, recovered from a one goal deficit at the half to bounce back to 3-1 victory over United.

A half-time team talk in the Wallsend sheds, including a rallying cry from Laura Hall ahead of the second 45-minute spell, changed the entire tempo of the match.

Hall, Libby Copus-Brown, and Olivia Kennedy’s three goals saw Wallsend overcome Rhali Dobson’s solo effort for the Llamas in the firsth half.

STANDINGS: New Lambton (15), Warners Bay (12), Merwether, South Wallsend (9), Wallsend, Mid North Coast (6), Adamstown, Thornton (0).