Goulburn Valley Suns playing coach Craig Carley insists his side can still be a factor towards the top of the National Premier League Two east table, despite a third-consecutive loss on Saturday night.
Regional rival Murray United came to the Theatre of Dreams and the second half was more like a nightmare for the Suns, as United stole a 4-2 win.
Shipping another four goals meant the Suns had conceded 14 goals in their past three games, sentencing them to ninth on the table, some nine points off leader Dandenong City a quarter of the way through the season.
Carley said his side did not deal with United’s physical, direct approach of pumping the ball long.
‘‘It’s always disappointing to lose, I just think we struggled to adapt to their direct approach,’’ he said.
‘‘We knew their game plan would be to go straight from the centre-backs to the centre-forwards, and didn’t deal with it. Fair play to them, it worked and we didn’t adjust.’’
Carley had labelled United striker Zac Walker as the danger man, and he only needed four minutes to grab his side the lead.
But the Suns levelled on 15 minutes through Billy Marshall for 1-1, the score at the half.
In an explosive start to the second, half-time substitute Gonzalo Freddi scored for United, and after Carley had answered for 2-2, Tom Morrison got his side back in front with a third goal on 55 minutes.
And further disaster followed as GV centre-back Jordan Montagner was given his marching orders for a second yellow card two minutes later.
The Suns produced quality football and good chances despite playing with 10 men, but could not find an equaliser before Walker completed the 4-2 scoreline two minutes from time.
Carley said his side had responded well to the sending-off, but it just was not to be.
‘‘We felt we had some good opportunities, three really good ones late,’’ he said.
‘‘We probably controlled the game a bit better when we had 10 men.
‘‘We were a bit more patient with the ball, but you do have to take risks a man down and chasing the game, and that’s how they scored their fourth.’’
But the Suns’ glaring problem remains a brittle defence that has been breached 14 times in the past three league games.
‘‘I was really happy with the boys, again I can’t fault the effort, but we’re conceding far too many goals,’’ Carley said.
‘‘Fourteen goals in three games, that has to stop.
‘‘We need to work on a few things; our structure if we have to and our personnel if we have to.
‘‘Not one team yet have I felt were better than us, I still think we can be one of the best teams in the competition.’’
The fixtures keep coming for the Suns, hosting State League One side Eltham Redbacks tonight in the FFA Cup fifth round.
They will be without midfielder Matt Lelliott, who is still waiting for X-rays on a suspected broken foot from a training mishap.
Montagner’s suspension and the potential absence of Jamie England through injury meant Carley suggested opportunities would be given for players to play different roles in the important clash.
‘‘(Eltham) has been promoted in the last couple of seasons, they’ve got a big centre forward and are another team we expect to take a direct approach,’’ Carley said.
‘‘It will be a tough battle and we need to be better prepared.’’