Murray United let an early 2-0 lead slip to fall 3-2 to Springvale White Eagles at La Trobe University on Saturday.
Striker Chad Bugeja found the back of the net in the 12th minute, before coach James Coutts doubled the advantage with a clinical finish 10 minutes later, but it was all Springvale from there.
The Eagles prevented another chance from Bugeja and a strike from Zac Walker and began to dominate the contest.
A stunning strike saw them pull one goal back on the stroke of half-time, with the equaliser coming six minutes into the second half.
Walker turned the ball over which sparked a counter from Springvale, and, despite a big chase, the opposition player was brought down in the box to hand them a penalty and a 3-2 lead.
United changed its formation several times in a bid to find a late goal and produced a handful of chances, but ultimately fell short.
Coutts admitted his side was little flat and didn’t play at the level they had been at in recent weeks.
“We didn’t finish chances we should finish, at the back we weren’t quite at the standard we have been and they punished us,” Coutts said.
“They had good attacking options and caused our fullbacks a lot of trouble.
“We’re trying to implement a similar style, but we have Pyesy (Sean Pye) out there who is not a wide player and Zac (Walker) who isn’t really a wide player either.
“It wasn’t a really good one for us, but we have to stick together and go again next week.”
Even at 2-0 up, Coutts wasn’t really happy with the way United was playing.
“We created a lot of chances early on which we should have taken and we didn’t,” he said.
“We’ve got to be accountable for that as a team and we know that and we’ll take that into next week.
“It was one of those games where it could have gone either way, we could have scored a few more, they could have scored a few more, but late on it wasn’t to be.”
Bugeja, along with defenders Ryan Giles and Alex West were all substituted in the second half, having pulled up sore from the previous week, and will continued to be managed midweek.
United faces another tough road trip to Nunawading next Sunday, but, ironically, have had better results away from home, with 11 of their 19 points this season coming from journeys down south.
“They like to play up from the back and they’ve got so many top-quality ex A-League players, so it’s going to be an interesting battle down there,” Coutts said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how far we’ve come and it’s going to be a good one because we’re close on the table.
“At the moment, we seem a little more confident away and we’ll look to go down there and get a result.”
The ladder after round 14 is: Dandenong City 29, Dandenong Thunder 29, Melbourne City 24, Murray United 19, Goulburn Valley Suns 17, Springvale White Eagles 16, Nunawading City 15, Box Hill United 15, Eastern Lions 12, Richmond 12.