Murray United were left to rue a handful of individual errors in the opening stages during their 3-1 loss on the road to promotion hopefuls Dandenong Thunder on Saturday.
The league’s leading goal scorer Brandon Barnes opened the Thunder’s account in the eighth minute, before an own goal from Halil Gur and a successful finish from Veton Korcari moments later opened up a 3-0 advantage inside half an hour.
To the Border side’s credit, they got themselves back into the contest and dominated the rest of the opening stanza.
Murray clawed one back in the second half thanks to a penalty off the boot of Archie Thompson, but were unable to put on any further scoreboard pressure.
Coach James Coutts said the biggest disappointment was that the three goals were avoidable, but overall he was pleased the way his undermanned side handled one of the league’s best outfits.
“People who watched the game and supporters who came down said it was the best half of football they’ve seen us play all year and I’d probably agree with a lot of them,” Coutts said.
“The way we moved the ball, the chances we created and the style of play we were playing was really good.
“The boys were superb in the second half, Gonzalo (Freddi) had a good chance and we obviously slotted the penalty away.
“We kind of felt if we got back to 3-2 we could have gone on to get it.”
Coutts admitted the defensive class of former A-League stars Simon Colosimo and Rodrigo Vargas made it difficult, but still felt his side created enough chances to cause an upset.
“Against the top sides, you can’t be performing for 45 or 60 minutes, you’ve got to be switched on the whole time,” he said.
“Fair play to Thunder, that’s why they’re up the top because they punish you and take chances and we just didn’t do that enough.
“The boys were out there gave a very good account of themselves against a quality side.
“Once we’d sorted out the first 25 minutes we were excellent, but, at that point, the damage was done.”
Coutts, Sean Pye and Nick Teichmann all missed the clash, which provided an opportunity for some of the club’s younger talent to step, which exactly what Lewis Greenwood did.
“We’ve changed the system slightly and he’s (Greenwood) played in a different role, but the effort, energy and determination he puts in is second to none,” Coutts said.
“His quality with the ball was superb to win the penalty and also his work rate.
“He never complains and shows a great attitude, which is what you want from young players, so it’s great to have young people like him in the group and coming through the club.
“He’s 18 at the end of the year and he’s done a lot in the last couple of seasons.
“I think this has been a great place for him to learn and develop his game.
“Ideally, I see him ending up being a striker and playing through the middle, even though he can play both sides.
“I’d certainly like to see him here for at least another year and progress through the club, but that’s something that will be talked about at the end of the season.”
Coutts is hopeful himself, Pye and Teichmann will be fit to return for next weekend’s clash against Richmond.