The fans needed something to keep them warm on a brisk night at McEwen Reserve and unfortunately it was not the Goulburn Valley Suns.
Nick Kalafatis’ mob drew 1-1 with Eastern Lions, the competition’s bottom side, in a dour affair on Saturday.
Stefan Papageorgiou opened the scoring in the 19th minute from close range after neat work from the Suns’ makeshift right-back Cody Sellwood.
Sellwood was fed through by Rob Hughes and the former Suns captain marauded past three Lions’ defenders before crossing the ball to an unmarked Papageorgiou, who found the back of the net from six yards out.
The Suns should have doubled their lead soon after when Craig Carley rounded the keeper, but the striker, albeit on a slight angle, saw his pass strike the upright and deflect into the path of a visiting Lion, leaving Kalafatis fuming.
‘‘Look, you do not get a better opportunity than that to score,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘Unfortunately it just does not go your way, we score that and I think the whole game could have been different.
‘‘They would have dropped their heads being on the bottom of the ladder, but I am happy to take the point considering how the game was played.’’
Shaun Kane also had a brilliant opportunity to double the Suns’ lead, but a Lions defender cleared his tame shot.
With the Suns thinking they had secured a half-time lead with four minutes to go, concentration dropped and Kalafatis, who was watching on from the sidelines after hurting his hip midweek, saw his side concede a header.
The Lions had threatened all game from set pieces and this time Philip Ajao found himself in the right place at the right time to head home at back post, leaving Rob Hughes and Thomas Leech trailing in his wake.
The header was Ajao’s eighth goal of the season and that was as good as the action got.
Without Kalafatis and Greg Nash at right-back, the Suns looked relatively inexperienced defensively with Sellwood, Jordan Montagner, Geordie Lelliott and Thomas Leech shaping the back four.
In an uneventful second half, Kalafatis threw on Lewis Coyle to centre-back for Leech, with Lelliott pushing out to left-back, while Fabrice Ebe made his return via the wing.
Coyle, who can play centre-back and striker, looked composed upon returning to the field, while with only minutes to spare Carley had a glancing opportunity to give the Suns a victory.
Ebe received the ball on the wing and his cross had too much juice on it as Carley stretched every part of his body, but his spiky hair could not control the header as it grazed over the crossbar.
Kalafatis lamented his side’s lack of composure and ability to build from the defensive and middle third as one of the most disappointing factors in the draw.
‘‘I don’t think we were calm when coming out from the back, we gave the ball over across midfield and I think we just failed to settle,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘It was not a high tempo game, it wasn’t the best spectacle and I think the Lions were very hungry and that is what forced us to turn it over so much — the boys didn’t go in taking the game seriously.’’
As a result the Suns have only won one of their past five matches and after 23 rounds Kalafatis’ side sits in fifth position on seven wins.
Jamie England, Papageorgiou and Matthew Lelliott were impressive on their return to the senior side, but the trio were unable to muster the regional club’s eighth win.
Should the Suns beat Melbourne City this weekend, Kalafatis will be running at a 33 per cent win record this season, while they are getting a result 66 per cent of the time.
‘‘It is not good enough, realistically we want to to win 65 to 70 per cent of the games we play and have a result percentage of 90 or so,’’ Kalafatis said.
‘‘We have to just continue to build, the club is getting great stability on the park, we are heading in the right direction and I think from where we have come from we are one of the better clubs in the NPL.’’