Canberra FC's Kaz Patafta and Woden Valley's Zach Harrigan. Photo: Graham Tidy
Former Young Socceroos captain Kaz Patafta made his starting debut for Canberra FC as the league leader took another step towards clinching a record 21st league championship.
Canberra FC broke down a stubborn Woden Valley to win 2-0 at Deakin Stadium on Sunday.
Patafta was used in an attacking midfield role in his second appearance in the Canberra National Premier League after playing half an hour off the bench last week in his return from retirement.
The 24-year-old - who had stints with Portuguese giant Benfica and A-League clubs Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets before giving the game away - is under no illusions the long journey he faces to return to the top.
''I'm taking things slow because I've been out of the game a while,'' Patafta said. ''I wouldn't be playing if I didn't love it. I'm not being unrealistic, but you've got to be playing if you want to get back.''
Patafta had several classy touches before being replaced in the 72nd minute.
After a dour first half, Canberra FC hit the front in the 52nd minute courtesy of an own goal from Woden Valley defender Sime Celeski. Alex Oloriegbe's neat finish four minutes later secured all three points against a Woden Valley team depleted by injury, illness and suspension.
Canberra FC remains four points clear of Canberra Olympic with three games to go.
Mark Shields netted his 18th goal of the campaign to keep Olympic in touch with a 1-0 win against Tuggeranong United.
Meanwhile, the Cooma Tigers blew a two-goal lead and missed a penalty to go down 3-2 to the Monaro Panthers at Riverside Stadium.
The Tigers are six points adrift of fourth-placed Woden Valley and at long odds to defend their grand final victory from 12 months ago.