SALE United was consigned to its third consecutive defeat, all coming against fellow teams in the Gippsland Soccer League top four, losing at home to Churchill United 2-0.
Churchill was without Nathan Lugton, Kwaku Dade and Dean Pyle, while Sale was missing Tom Nguyen, Ross McWhirter and Ashley Ross.
After just 10 minutes, Rams enforcer Mitch Jackson sustained a leg injury and was substituted for youngster Matthew Maselli.
Churchill coach Luke Cheney hit the crossbar with a header and sprayed a penalty kick late in the first half.
After a tense 25 minutes in the second half, the Rams finally claimed the lead when Aidan Huizer rose above a pack of players to head home. Soon after Taylor Jackson had his penalty kick saved by Sale keeper Chris Richardson as the Rams held onto a tenuous lead after missing another gilt edged opportunity.
Churchill was almost made to rue its inaccuracy when keeper Jason Sands was caught in “no man’s land” before Jamie Robson cleared Callum Clancy’s shot off the goal line.
Churchill finally iced the match through substitute Maselli, who played an impressive match after lining up in the youth match curtain raiser.
MOE United consolidated third place with a 2-0 away win over Traralgon City, despite the absence of coach Lee Dastey.
After a scoreless first half, Red Devils’ striker Matt Shearing put his side in front after a run from the half-way line. The match was sealen when Jason Koppen unleashed a 20 five yard free kick which gave the City keeper no chance.
ELSEWHERE, Moe United consolidated third place with a 2-0 away win over Traralgon City, Newborough-Yallourn United stunted Falcons’ finals run with an impressive 3-1 win on Saturday night, Fortuna continued hot on ladder leader Churchill’s heels with a 4-1 win over Monash on Sunday to severely dent the Wolves’ hopes of a top four berth, and Traralgon Olympians continued its late season surge with a 7-1 win against Tyers.
SALE United will need to find something special to get its season back on track when it travels to Traralgon this Sunday to play the Olympians, who have been in fantastic form over the past month.
In other round 15 matches on Sunday, Moe will be looking for a seventh win in a row when it hosts Falcons, and NYU is home to Tyers.
On Saturday night, Traralgon City finds itself in a similar predicament to Sale, having failed to step up to the mark at critical times in recent weeks and faces a massive challenge against Fortuna, and Churchill hosts Monash.
For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.