Hoppers Crossing’s run in the FFA Cup has come to an end at the hands of a star-studded Dandenong City in a 3-1 loss at the fourth round stage at Grange Reserve on Saturday.
The Reds went into the game as underdogs to the NPL2 East leaders, but they were never going to back down from the challenge – even if the visitors were two league above them in rankings.
Reds’ coach Shaun Barbara promoted a positive game plan, and his players showed in patches what they can produce, even if they were ultimately outclassed after 90 minutes.
“We took a collective view at the start of the week that we were certainly not going to park the bus,” Barbara said.
“We believe in our ability, we believe in the players we’ve got on board, and we’re certainly capable of playing a positive brand of football against anyone.
“We gave a very good account of ourselves and earned a bit of respect from the NPL side.”
Hoppers Crossing had its moments in the first half, but it was Dandenong City with the killer touch.
City striker Paul Harvey, a new recruit to the side this season, breached the Reds’ defence twice in six minutes to give his side a two-goal advantage at half-time.
“Up to that point, we were in the contest and didn’t look like fish out of water,” Barbara said.
“Our keeper made some good saves, but we looked well organised.
“Those two goals hurt us a bit.”
The deficit did not deter Hoppers Crossing from sticking to its own style of play.
The Reds used the break to re-group and make one last push at a win.
Their hopes of a comeback were extinguished, though, when Jarod Blackbourn netted for City.
Hoppers Crossing would get their goal through hard-working striker Alister Smart, but it was too little too late.
Barbara was left impressed with the courage of his players, but still deflated by the outcome.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that we didn’t get the result, but that’s part and parcel of football,” he said.
“In regards to the effort and the desire to put in a good performance against a strong outfit, I can’t fault the boys.”
Hoppers Crossing will open the state league 2 season at home on Saturday in a clash against Moreland United.
Meanwhile, Werribee City moved through to the fifth round of the FFA Cup after a hard-fought 2-0 win over Ballarat City on the road at Morshead Park, with Djordje Aleksic starring for the Bees.
Aleksic put through two second-half goals just 10 minutes apart, securing the victory.
Werribee City will be back in NPL2 West action on Sunday.
They host Bendigo City in a clash of the bottom two at Galvin Park.