Substitute goalie Tufuga covers herself in glory
The Mainland Pride continued their unbeaten run in the National Women's Youth League despite heroics by a rival forced to play in goal for the first time.
Mainland won 3-2 at English Park yesterday after Central were reduced to 10 players for 88 minutes.
The North Islanders' first-choice goalkeeper Courtney Norman was sent off in the second minute after bringing down a Mainland striker in the penalty box.
Reserve central defender Ruby Tufuga took over and promptly covered herself in glory by saving Ashleigh Ward's penalty. Tufuga made a string of timely interventions and admitted later that she had never played in goal before but had deputised there at training.
Mainland coach Gareth Turnbull said the stand-in keeper was the undoubted player of the day "for both teams, by a country mile" but he said his own strikers had made Tufuga's job easier. "She was fantastic, but everything we hit at her was at a favourable height."
He said the referee "made the correct call" to send Norman off and the extra-player advantage gave Mainland an opportunity to "control the rhythm" of the match.
Turnbull was happy to bank another three points to take Mainland's record at the top of the southern conference to seven points - two ahead of Capital Football. He was pleased to win after a "pretty average" performance.
He said Mainland were organised in defence and would be hard for any team to break down but the frontrunners needed to be more clinical in front of goal.
Ashleigh Ward got the final touch for Mainland's first goal in the fourth minute and they doubled the lead to 2-0 after a Central own goal.
But the visitors struck back when Emma Boyack was felled in penalty area and scored from the spot in the 58th minute.
The Pride went ahead 3-1 with a well-executed goal in the 82nd minute sparked by Laura Merrin breaking down the left flank. She found Dayna Napa, who made a strong run, before passing to Meikayla Moore, who rifled a shot home.
Boyack scored her second goal in the fifth minute of injury time.
Scorers: Mainland Pride 3 (Ashleigh Ward, own goal, Meikayla Moore) Central 2 (Emma Boyack 2, inc pen). HT: 2-0.
Should Todd Blackadder stay on as Crusaders coach?Related story: Coach Todd Blackadder's job at Crusaders safe