Calder Cannons missed a golden opportunity to take a big scalp in the TAC Cup on Saturday, going down to Dandenong after leading in the last quarter.

The Cannons managed just one behind in the final term as the Stingrays banged home 5.5 to steal the win 10.18 (78) – 8.7 (55).

Calder coach Andrew Johnston said it was a performance symptomatic of their season to date.

“We were competitive to a point, but just not there in the last which is a bit par for the course this year,” Johnston said. “We were really good in the first, good to a point in the next two, but then fell away badly in the last and Dandenong were able to get on top.

“The reality is you can’t just be good for one quarter, you have to do it for four, and against quality opposition they will make you pay.”

With the aid of a strong breeze, Calder shot out of the blocks early with four of the first five goals to open up a 20-point lead at the first change, but Dandenong was equally as good when its turn with the wind came.

The Stingrays were inaccurate, scoring 2.8 in the second, but kept the home side to just one behind to draw within a point at the long break.

The wind died down after half-time as the two sides traded blows, Calder holding onto the lead until midway through the final quarter before Dandenong started to assert their authority.

Four goals in 10 minutes to Dandenong after the 13-minute mark of the final quarter finally broke the resistance of Calder, which slipped to its ninth loss of the season and sit just percentage off the bottom of the ladder.

Despite the drop off, Johnston said fitness wasn’t an issue.

“I don’t think the result had anything to do with fitness, it was just a want to maintain that level that we had earlier in the game,” he said.

“We had a young backline that got some good experience and hopefully they’ll be better for it going into the next two months of footy and into 2018.”

Calder will face another stern test this week against Murray Bushrangers, and Johnston said his side was ready for the challenge.

“It just doesn’t stop, and that’s the beauty of this competition,” Johnston said.

“When you’re down the bottom you’re always playing teams above you, so you either learn from it or you shut up shop, and we’re certainly not going to do that.

“You can’t hide away from it … if you’re not learning from it then you’re in trouble and you go back to local footy until you can.

“We know we’re heading in the right direction and it’s just going to take some more work to get there.”