NSW PREMIER LEAGUE
Illawarra Stingrays kept the pressure on the top four with a vital 2-1 win over Manly United on Sunday.
The 2013 runners-up are in a race against time to bridge the gap to a finals spot and picked up a valuable three points against one of their top-four challengers who sit above them on the ladder.
It leaves the Rays four points out of the top four with six matches remaining.
"It was crucial because if we want to knock teams out of that top four we have to be beating them," coach Graham Shaw said.
"We will get another opportunity next weekend when we come up against [North West Sydney] Koalas."
Shaw's side had to survive the last 20 minutes on Sunday without Erica Halloway, who was sent off for an unlucky hand-ball on the goal line.
Manly scored from the ensuing penalty kick through Caitlin Campbell and pushed for an equaliser but were denied by some strong Stingrays defence.
Earlier, Jordan Baker had given Illawarra the lead in the first half after she finished off a nice through ball.
Baker's strike partner Michelle Carney then doubled the lead just after interval.
Last season's leading goal scorer was fed the ball from the left flank by Baker and used a neat touch to make some space to score.
"It was hard fought but we held good defensive structure and forced them into the wide areas to keep them out there," Shaw said.
"It forced them to play long balls and ended up frustrating them.
"We didn't let them hold too much possession on the deck and when those balls went in there, they were 50-50s or they'd go out for the throw.
"We looked to capitalise on the chances when we could."
Shaw also praised his side's resilience after the sending off and said they managed United's set-piece ability well.
"They are a very tall and physical side and you can see why they get a lot of their goals from set pieces," he said.
"They did have quite a few in the first half and when we went down a player in the second half, we really looked to make sure they didn't get any opportunities to snatch a point," he said.