FOR 35 minutes Mid North Coast held highly-fancied opponents Warners Bay at bay.
In the end, the class of the Panthers shone through as they moved into second spot on the Herald Women's Premier League ladder with a comfortable 4-0 win in Port Macquarie.
But Mid North Coast coach Mick Grass felt the final scoreline perhaps flattered the visitors.
"Their first goal was a dubious penalty and then the second one came when we had someone off in the blood bin so we were defending with 10," he said.
"We also missed an open goal (in the second half) so I felt 2-1 would have been a fair indication of the game.
"We were ultra-competitive, a few things didn't go our way, but we didn't fall away."
After a challenging two-thirds of the season Mid North Coast now appear to have found a game plan - and confidence - to challenge the best teams in the competition.
"We're found the recipe to match these other teams; that doesn't mean we're going to win games, but we're going to be competitive," Grass said.
"You look at the names of the players in their (Warners Bay) team and anyone who knows football know they're a good side with W-League players."
The battle to hang onto some of the talented players littered across the Mid North Coast team was now one Grass needed to win.
It is one former coaches have found difficult.
"We've still got a young side and whether we can keep them is the biggest trouble," he said.
"You develop these players and then they move and then you have to play against them."
The coach was most impressed with the performance of central defender and captain Sam Bestwick.
"She leads the way every single weekend and she did again," he said.
"She played with a serious back injury and was in a lot of pain, but was fantastic."
Warners Bay 4 (Jenna Kingsley 2, Cassidy Davis, Sophie Stapleford) beat Mid North Coast 0 at Wayne Richards Park. Half-time: Warners Bay led 2-0.
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