The bid for the NPLW golden boot is tightening up, with the top three contenders - Brittany Palombi, Ashleigh Sykes and Talia Backhouse - neck and neck at the tail end of the season.
Canberra Croatia FC's Palombi was leading with 21 goals to her name heading into round 16. She remains on top after the weekend fixtures, with 22 goals to her name.
However, a hat-trick from Canberra Olympic FC's Sykes on Sunday closed the gap and pushed her up to 21 goals.
Similarly, Backhouse played a key role in Belconnen United FC's must-win match over Canberra United Academy. The 2-0 win was thanks to Backhouse, taking her goal tally up to 17.
Belconnen remain in the mix for the premiership following their win, with Croatia only three points ahead on the ladder.
Coach Michael Zakoski said it was a must-win and big win all in one for his Belconnen side.
"They're really well structured and we struggled to beat them centrally, so we had to move the ball around a fair bit," he said.
"It's almost reached another level now, because we have to think about how many goals we need to score.
"We're trying not to lose our DNA just to score more goals, so it's a balancing act of results and how much we're winning by."
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The 2-0 win began in the 27th minute, after Michaela Day picked up the ball at halfway and drove through the Academy players, before finding the feet of Backhouse.
The number nine ended up one-on-one with Academy goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln, who despite narrowing the angle could not stop Backhouse's bottom left-hand corner placement.
Belconnen doubled their lead in the second half through Backhouse again. Samantha Price sent a cross in, which first found the head of a United defender. However, the second header went to Backhouse to make it 2-0 in the 52nd minute.
Croatia and Belconnen will face each other one last time in round 19, and it may be the only opportunity Belconnen have to close the three-point difference on the ladder.
Deakin lead on 43 points, followed by Belconnen on 40 points heading into round 17 of the competition.
Zakoski said the biggest thing for his side was making sure they had a full-strength squad heading into their match against Croatia.
"The big thing for us when we face them again is that we're facing them with every player available," he said.
"The last few times we've been a bit unlucky with players out, so the biggest thing will be making sure we have everyone ready and available. And we've been thinking about that, so we are managing load and minutes throughout first and reserve grade in preparation for it."
AT A GLANCE
ROUND 16 RESULTS:
- Gungahlin United FC bt Canberra Olympic FC 5-4.
- Canberra Croatia FC bt West Canberra Wanderers 4-0.
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