The Henwood Park Hawks jumped two points ahead of Cootamundra on the ladder as they scored four goals to notch a win.
On Sunday, the Strikers piled the pressure on the visitors to crack their defence but were left rueing missed opportunities by half-time.
Two chances by Brenton Forsyth and one by co-coach Adam McPhail were stopped by the Hawks.
Just before the break the Hawks found the back of the Strikers’ net thanks to Jake Ploenges.
The Strikers were left frustrated as Brenton Forsyth was given a red card for an intentional handball as the Hawks kicked in from the sideline in the second half.
“I felt shattered for Brenton, he’s come back from four weeks with a hamstring injury and now he’s going to spend at least two weeks out because the referee judged it was a deliberate handball," McPhail said.
Forsyth was looking to block a Henwood Park kick in their half and jumped up to stop the ball.
McPhail said he didn’t believe Forsyth had acted to touch the ball deliberately.
That red card changed the momentum of the game in favour of the Hawks for the final 30 minutes.
The Strikers weren’t able to sit back and defend as they were lagging 1-nil and played hard to equalise with only 10 players.
Henwood Park’s Jake Ploenges and Carl Pideski scored three goals between them.
McPhail isn’t writing off the team’s season, with third, fourth, fifth and sixth place on the ladder separated by a point.
“They weren’t a four goal better team than us,” he said.
“On paper it’s not ideal, the team were competitive with one of the competition’s best teams.”
McPhail said it came down to Cootamundra creating and then maximising their chances to score.
“We talked about it at half-time, we had a few chances twice with Brenton and I had one (before) half-time,” he said.
“If we had taken one of those opportunities in the first half, we may have been able to sit back in our own half, ‘park the bus’ and defend.
“But when you’re 1-nil down, you can’t afford to.”
McPhail said man of the match went to Max Holder, who played at left back.
“He’s come to the team at the start of this year after a four to five year break, we’re very impressed with him.
“He’s done a good job and he’s getting back on touch and picking up the rhythm of the game.”
Nick Ashe had another solid game for the Strikers which was expected, McPhail said.
“It’s what you expect from a senior player.”
GIRL’S TEAMS MAKING INROADS
The next fortnight will be tough for the women’s Strikers as they face some of the top teams in the first and reserve grade competition.
Coach James Dickinson had faith that the teams would be competitive as the players had been making big strides since the season’s start.
“The younger players have provided a lot of enthusiasm and been well guided by a few senior girls in the club,” Dickinson said.
“I’m really proud of how both teams are going in both grades this year, we’ve made some real in-roads.”
This weekend the first grade team will play Henwood Park at Rawlings Park before a bye the following round. Meanwhile, the third-placed reserve grade side will play the top two teams, Junee and Tolland, over two weeks.
Dickinson said reserve grade’s strength had been in its defensive efforts winning six games with a clean sheet, and had beaten Junee during round one.