Stingrays coach Scott Chipperfield refused to underestimate the value of Sunday's 2-1 victory over Bankstown City as his undermanned Illawarra outfit moved clear at the top of the league.
Despite missing several key players, including skipper Michelle Carney, Illawarra comfortably extended their unbeaten stretch to six matches to start the season.
They were well in control in the first half and carried a two-goal cushion into the break after Eden Stoddard and Kaelah Austin both hit the target.
Bankstown pulled a goal back early in the second stanza through Matildas rising star Mary Fowler but struggled to crack the Stingrays defence again.
The win allowed Illawarra to jump Football NSW Institute into top spot on the ladder.
"With the players we are missing, it was a big three points," Chipperfield sad.
"We've got a lot of players to come back still so we should improve as the season goes on."
The Stingrays are expected to be without Carney and Hannah Beard until after Easter while Katelyn Leadbeatter's (knee) season is now confirmed to be over with an ACL injury.
They welcomed back Lucy Nolan over the weekend, yet Matildas striker Michelle Heyman is still to make an appearance this season.
It has required the Stingrays depth to be tested early in the campaign, but Chipperfield has been satisfied with what he has seen.
"The players that have came in have went well," the coach said.
"Sarah Johnston came in last week after five minutes to replace Leadbeatter and did well.
"She did well at the back again to cover Mary Fowler on the weekend alongside Cooper.
With the players we are missing, it was a big three points,Scott Chipperfield
"Her and Cooper did a good job on her, who is definitely their main danger."
Chipperfield was still chasing a complete performance from his squad after their win over City.
"In the first half we were cruising but we just fell away in the second half," he said.
"We just turned the ball over way too easy after the break. We allowed Fowler to have more time on the ball and she finished it off well."
Illawarra don't play again until Easter Monday where they will face-off against Manly United at Cromer Park.
Manly are 10th on the ladder with four points after the opening six rounds.