The Macleay Valley Rangers first grade side solidified their spot on the top of the table after earning a 1-0 victory over crosstown rivals Kempsey Saints in a fast-paced match.
There wasn't much separating the sides, but the Rangers maintained their perfect start to the season after Jeremy Masters’ header found the back of the net in the second half.
Neither side gave an inch in an entertaining first half that saw the best chance fall to the Saints.
Ellis Jeffery was on the end of a through ball and was one-on-one with Rangers goalkeeper Shaun Glover but he was unable to make it count as Glover pulled off a tremendous save to keep the scores level.
Rangers first grade coach Dean Riordan credited his midfielders for keeping the scores level, in a tight opening 45 minutes.
“Our midfield was exceptional. It was played at such a fast pace and they covered a lot of ground,” he said.
He gave instructions to his side to keep at it and they would be rewarded and his words came true with Daniel Saul creating an opportunity after attacking down the right flank.
The 21-year-old crossed the ball into striker Masters who headed it past the Saints keeper Jacob Lyttle.
Despite taking the lead, Rangers continued to press forward as Masters and Saul narrowly missed opportunities to double their advantage.
Saints gave it their all in the final minutes of the match to grab an equaliser but defenders Adric Bobin, Blake Pietch and Paul Thurlow didn’t allow any clear cut chances.
“It was a cracking game and you can see why both teams are at the pointy end of the table,” Riordan said.
“A draw might have been a fair result but very happy we were able to get the win.
“We played ourselves into the match and we got better as the game went on.”
Rangers sit five points clear of their nearest rival Port Saints on the ladder, while Kempsey Saints are in fourth position.
Rangers are enjoying one of their best starts to the season and Riordan believes their success comes on the back of their improved defence.
“We aren’t conceding the goals we were last year. We have cleaned it up at the back and our scrambling defence has been great,” he said.
“It is good to be out in front and setting a good pace but we don’t want to hit our straps too early and peak at the wrong time.
They don’t give out trophies this early in the season and there is still plenty of work to be done.”
Kempsey Saints face Wallis Lakes at home while Rangers are on the road against the Forster-Tuncurry Tigers.
The reserve grade match was called off with 15-minutes remaining after Rangers player Darren Morn suffered a broken leg.
It is the fourth time Morn has suffered a serious break to one of his legs and it will be a big blow for the Rangers who will miss his experience.
“There was no malice in the tackle. Morn and a Saints player came together and he has come off worse,” Riordan said.
Neither side was able to break the deadlock and the match finished a nil-all draw.
The result sees Saints hold onto top spot on the ladder with Rangers one competition point behind in second.
A fundraiser for West Kempsey Primary School and Melville High School special needs students was held on the day by Rangers.
The amount raised wasn’t finalised at the time of print but the Rangers club extends their gratitude to Kempsey Saints who donated $200 of the clubs money.