Altona turned up late to the party and missed out on all the fun in a 3-1 loss to Waverley in the Hockey Victoria men’s premier league at Sugar Gum Drive on Saturday.
The Seagulls were two goals down by half time and had too much work to do in the second half to even threaten Waverley.
A strong finish yielded a consolation goal to Altona captain Harry Dolenc in the fourth quarter, but his side walked away empty handed.
“They were quicker off the mark and were definitely more clinical,” Dolenc said.
“We were coming late on.
“If we had another quarter in us, we probably could’ve pegged them back.
“They just got away too early and we had a lot to catch up on.”
It was a costly loss for Altona, who have tumbled out of the top eight.
The Seagulls went into the game confident of being able to match it with Waverley and showed they could in patches, but their lack of killer instinct hurt.
“We probably had it in us to outplay them, but they’re a quality side and they put goals away and we didn’t unfortunately,” Dolenc said.
“Towards the end of the game, we showed we could match them, but we’ve struggled a little bit in the last few weeks to put field goals away.
“When you can’t put them away when you get your chances, they come back to bite you.”
Dolenc was full of praise for the performances of youngsters Cooper Burns and Connar Otterbach.
Burns is an under 16 Australian schoolboys representative and Otterbach was the captain of the Victorian under 18s and an under 21 representative.
The best player for Altona though was player-coach Steve Campbell at centre half.
“He was a bit of a general for us just guiding the troops,” Dolenc said.
While Altona is three points outside the top eight, Dolenc is confident his team has the quality to play finals.
In fact, he has not given up hope of featuring in the top half of the finals, though they will need to get a wriggle on if they are the bridge the sizeable gap.
“We’re halfway through the season, so the door is still wide open,” Dolenc said.
“I’d like to think we’ve got a good back half of the season ahead of us.
“We’re certainly not out of the mix.
“If we can have a big second half of the year, I think we can find the top half of the eight or at least the five, six slot and do a bit of damage in the finals.”
After this weekend’s bye, Altona will face Footscray in the western derby at the Footscray Hockey Centre on July 13.
This is a game that players from both sides underline when they fixture is released.
“Growing up in the same area and you’re playing in the same teams representing the region, there’s a few friendships in there, but there’s definitely a rivalry,” Dolenc said.
“There’s always a bit more of a crowd for a western derby and a little bit of emotion.”