Rockingham City took a huge stride towards automatic promotion to the NPL WA when they beat Gwelup Croatia 1-0 at SafeRad Stadium.
Matt Brook scored the only goal on 12 minutes when he turned home a cleverly-worked free-kick which came straight off the training ground.
Saturday’s win meant Rockingham went top of the State League Division One, above Gwelup on goal difference, with both sides having two matches to play.
It was a deserved three points for Cameron Lord’s side, whose goal difference is four better than that of their rivals.
If Rockingham can retain top spot until the end of the season then they will gain automatic promotion and Subiaco will be relegated from the NPL for the first time. However, should Rockingham finish second they will have a play-off against Subiaco.
Gwelup do not meet the criteria for the NPL.
With so much on the line an early goal was just what was required and it was City who supplied it on 12 minutes. James Harmer played a short free-kick which was eventually turned in by Brook despite a smart save from Connor Campbell.
Gwelup almost responded immediately when Victor Brauner tested Cyril Sharrock but Rockingham’s veteran keeper got down well to push the effort wide.
There was little cohesion about Gwelup’s play in the first half yet they almost went in on level terms when David Heagney’s cross was turned goalwards by Brodie Martin but again Sharrock saved, this time at his near post.
Within a minute of the restart Rockingham should have been 2-0 ahead. A loose pass from Bobby Wilson allowed Kory Millard to cross but Ross Staley sidefooted wide with the goal gaping.
Heagney then put a shot from distance on to the top of the Rockingham goal, before Millard brought a good low stop from Campbell. The Gwelup keeper had to be out quickly once more to halt Millard not long after.
Entering the final 20 minutes Gwelup, urged on by a travelling party of Subiaco players and supporters, increased their urgency. And they were almost rewarded when Wilson’s header was scrambled clear. The defender then skimmed the Rockingham bar with a 25-yeard pildriver which Sharrock could only watch.
Gwelup’s final chance came when Issac Koomsen’s deep cross from the left was met by Wilson but his header striuck the post before being cleared.
While Rockingham are now in pole position to win the league, they do face two tough tests in the final fortnight. First up is a trip to fourth-placed South West Phoenix followed by a final-day game at home to Fremantle City, who are third.
Gwelup are at home to Morley-Windmills next week then have a “Croatian” derby with Western Knights to end the season.