Canberra United is on top of the table and returning star Sally Shipard capped her emotional comeback with a rare goal in a record-equalling thumping of the lowly Newcastle Jets.
Everything went right for the Green Machine as it survived the 38-degree heat to put the Jets to the sword with a 5-0 flogging on Saturday.
The biggest cheer from the 662 fans at McKellar Park was reserved for Shipard, who found the back of the net after just 10 minutes in her first game back from career-threatening knee injuries.
It was the champion midfielder’s first game for the season and just her sixth in the past two campaigns.
The 57-game Matildas veteran was ecstatic to get through her 45 minutes of action unscathed before being replaced at half-time.
”It felt like an emotion I hadn’t felt in a while,” Shipard said.
”I didn’t really feel like I’ve been away from the game all that long, but I guess my lungs knew very different.
”It was a great game to come back and I’m very chuffed about the amount of support I’ve had to get back out there.”
The timing of Shipard’s return couldn’t be better now there are just two weeks until the finals.
Shipard, the 2011-12 W-League player of the year in United’s championship season, injured her right knee while playing in Germany in 2012, and was restricted to just five games last season.
She was supposed to make her comeback two months ago, but suffered swelling in her left knee.
But all that was forgotten when she fired the ball into the back of the net from close range off a perfect assist from teammate Lori Lindsey.
United coach Liesbeth Migchelsen’s side has won four games in a row, including the last three in the space of six days, to rocket to the top of the ladder.
While Sydney FC can reclaim top spot with a win against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, United can clinch the league championship and a chance at a home grand final when it faces the Sky Blues in a week’s time.
United quickly established its dominance in handing the Jets an 11th straight loss this season. Super striker Michelle Heyman opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
Shipard doubled the advantage before defender Ellie Brush scored from a header. Second-half strikes from Georgia Yeoman-Dale and Jennifer Bisset rounded out a superb team performance.
The result equals the biggest winning margin in United’s six-year history and also equals the most goals the team has scored in a single game.
CANBERRA UNITED 5 (Michelle Heyman 7m, Sally Shipard 10m, Ellie Brush 27m, Georgia Yeoman-Dale 46m, Jennifer Bisset 63m) bt NEWCASTLE JETS 0 at McKellar Park. Referee: Rebecca Durcau.
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