Maitland FC shares top spot with defending premiers Broadmeadow Magic after the Magpies defeated Charlestown Azzurri 3-2 win in the Northern NSW NPLW at Cooks Square Park on Sunday.
The high-quality game had it all including the Charlestown coach Niko Papaspiropoulos being red-carded when the referee could not identify the player who fouled Maitland youngster Bronte Peel in a goal scoring position.
The victory leaves the Magpies and Magic both with three wins from three completed games with their postponed round three Friday night fixture against each other on April 1 rescheduled to Monday, June 13.
The Magic defeated former top of the table side Warners Bay 3-2 in another high-quality encounter on Saturday, to leave them and the Magpies the only undefeated teams in the competition.
"It was a cracking game, open, free-flowing and a really physical encounter with some brilliant football," Magpies coach David Walker said rolling off the superlatives in praise of his team's effort.
"It was exciting to be part of.
"They're ticking the boxes in each game. The improvements from game to game have been noticeable.
"On Sunday people asked me 'who's your player of the match' and to be honest it was difficult to highlight one as you couldn't have done without any of them."
Sophie Jones gave Maitland a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when she scored with a free kick from just outside the area.
Walker said Bronte Peel was onto goal and was impeded when she was just outside the box.
"It ended up being quite a controversial moment in the game. It was a red-card offence and the referee was unable to identify the player who committed the foul," Walker said.
"Apparently in the absence of that the coach was unable to identify which player it was so the coach was red-carded.
"They were lucky to play the whole game with 11 players, they should have been a player down 10 minutes into the game."
Azzurri equalised in the 23rd through Courtney Anderson, who finished from close range after Jess Gentle had crossed into the box.
Walker said after going into half-time 1-all, the Magpies tightened some areas in which they felt they weren't quite executing their game strategy and the results came soon.
Bronte Peel (56th) and Mercedes McNabb (57th) added two goals in quick succession for Maitland before Azzurri's Jenna Kingsley scored in the 81st.
"There were probably two other clear chances when we could have extended it further," Walker said.
"It was a fairly intense last 10 minutes, but the girls to their credit got the points."
It was an impressive win against a team which had been rated as one of the favourites to make the top four and challenge for the title.
"The spirit in the team and the character the players are displaying is really impressive The confidence is brimming and they're building on that foundation of last year and what they've been doing," Walker said
There are no scheduled games over Easter so the Magpies will have two weeks of training before they play Adamstown
Walker said it was terrific for the club to be on top of the men's and women's competition.
"I'd love for it to be three weeks from the end and us still talking about that. It's a lot way to go. but it does show the intent the club's two senior teams are going into games with.
"We want to continue that, but we're not getting carried away with ourselves just yet."
The Maitland men's team play Valentine on Wednesday at Cooks Square Park. Kick off is at 7pm.
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