North End earned a vital 3-0 victory at Leigh Sports Village against league rivals Sporting Club Albion.
A straight red card shown to Albion right winger Leigh Dugmore for kicking out on Alice Forshaw opened the game up for PNE, as they scored only 7 minutes later through Danielle Young.
Chelsea Flanagan and Gemma Watson later added to the scoreline on their return to the starting XI and helped further extend the lead at the top of the table.
There were five changes to the starting line-up from last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Guiseley, with Jenna Carroll, Alice Forshaw, Katie Brusell, Gemma Watson and Chelsea Flanagan all coming back into the side.
Chances came few and far between in the early stages of the game as both sides looked to settle on the 3G surface, neither team really used the ball to full effect.
Abigail Cottam threatened Dan Brown’s goal on the 17th minute but her shot had no power behind it and eased its way to Brown who had no trouble getting down to save the tame effort on goal.
Two minutes later and centre-back Kelly Clarke came very close to scoring with a header inside the penalty area, but her bullet header only just managed to fly wide of the target.
PNE had their first shot on target with 28 minutes on the clock. Brusell and Flanagan combined well going forward but Brusell could only produce a weak shot on Rebecca Thomas’ goal, which she saved well.
Albion substitute Hazzana Parnell came on for the injured Billie Haynes, and almost made an immediate impact. The ball fell to Parnell after some good passing play by the away side but Brown closed down the angle on goal and saved very well from Parnell’s low shot.
Four minutes later and Parnell came very close to scoring again, however, her tame shot rolled wide of the net this time when she really should have found the target.
Watson had the greatest chance of the first half on 44 minutes. Katie Brusell skipped past two of the Albion defenders before crossing to the back post and finding Watson who agonisingly snatched her shot over the bar.
PNE almost made the perfect start to the second half as Charlotte Farrell rose high to get on the end of an in swinging corner, but her header could only rattle the crossbar.
Then came the defining moment of the game on 53 minutes with Dugmore unnecessarily kicking out on Forshaw. Referee Lewis Otto went straight to his pocket and without any hesitation showed Dugmore the red card.
With Albion down to ten players it left the door open for PNE to take full advantage.
Some brilliant play by Watson weaving around two defensive challenges before unleashing a deathly shot on target, bouncing off the bar and falling to Danielle Young to volley in from inside the six-yard-box.
It was not long before North End doubled their lead through Flanagan on 63 minutes. Young’s right footed cross to the back post was missed by the away side’s defence and a close range header from Flanagan provided the best possible comeback after returning from injury.
Watson grabbed the third and final goal with her shot on the edge of the Albion penalty area, and despite the defender’s best efforts to block the shot the ball was deflected past Thomas to seal the deal.
Flanagan came very close to adding another goal in the last moments of the game. Her front post header did not manage to divert Brusell’s left wing cross goalwards but nonetheless North End had already done the business and sealed the three points.
PNE starting line-up: Brown, Westerman, Forshaw, Carroll, Farrell, Walker (Swarbrick 80), H. Forster, Young, Watson, Brusell, Flanagan
Unused subs: Makin, White
Sporting Club Albion starting line-up: Thomas, Clarke, Darby, Highman (Wright 80), Poole, Greaves, Conroy, Holmes, Cottam, Dugmore, Haynes (Parnell 26) (Robinson 68)
Unused subs: Edmunds, Dicken