The Macleay Valley Rangers held on for a 3-1 victory in their local derby against the Kempsey Saints who finished the match with 10 men.
Saints captain Troy Ward was shown a red card five minutes before half-time with the scores level at 1-1 and his side was unable to recover from the blow.
The Rangers capitalised on the pressure they were applying to Saints’ defence in the 20th minute. Sam Applegate returned to the starting line up and beat two defenders down the left edge before firing a shot which beat keeper Michael Sultana at his near post.
In the seesawing match, Saints were able to answer from a freekick.
A ball was played short to Ward who rocketed a shot from close to the halfway line and despite the distance he gave no chance for Rangers keeper Shaun Glover to make the save.
The ball faded away from Glover and into the top right corner.
However, Ward turned from hero to villain when he turned the ball over in his half and as the last defender he brought down Andrew Potter.
The tackle resulted in an early shower for Ward as he was given his marching orders from the referee.
Rangers made the extra man count immediately as Applegate grabbed a second to give his side the lead at the break.
The second half saw possession and territory dominated by the Rangers with the Saints forced to reshuffle their formation and strategy.
“The red card to Troy killed the game a bit,” Rangers coach Dean Riordan said.
“We weren’t playing with a killer instinct and Saints were down a man so it was obviously hard for them to attack.”
Saints sat back and relied on the counter attack but they rarely troubled the Rangers goal.
“We were hoping to keep it close until the final minutes and hopefully snatch something from the game,” Saints coach Matt Baker said.
Baker’s hope was dashed with 17-minutes remaining when the Rangers doubled their advantage.
Daniel Saul crossed the ball into the box off a corner and Kurt Riordan headed it into the goal mouth and after a couple of ricochets Potter pushed the ball into the back of the net.
“Daniel and Sam were excellent in their returns and were our best options pushing forward,” Riordan said.
Applegate was awarded man of the match honours.
With four rounds remaining, each match has become a must-win for the Saints if they are to reach the finals.
Meanwhile the Rangers sit in the box seat for the minor premiership with a seven-point lead over second placed Port Saints.