Whittlesea Ranges’ fight to stay in the National Premier League 2 west next season fell just short.
With the NPL 2 competition splitting as part of a restructure, and the introduction of a new NPL 3 competition, teams were looking for a top six finish to secure a place.
But after a horrible start to the season, which saw them planted on the bottom of the ladder after 10 rounds, the Ranges needed a win in the final round and hope results went their way to clinch sixth spot.
Moreland Zebras had other ideas though, defeating Ranges 4-0 on Saturday.
It was a tough day all round for the Ranges, with coach George Karkaletsis missing the game due to a death in the family,
He said reports from his assistant coach said that the boys didn’t have their normal spark.
“We had been really confident going into the game,” Karkaletsis said.
“We were a little bit down and some good players were down on their normal standard.”
While disappointed not to stay up in NPL 2, Karkaletsis knows the side has come a long way from when he took over in round 10.
He said the first aim for the side was to get off the bottom of the ladder. It then turned its attention to aiming for a top six finish.
“It took until the final game of the season to decide our future,” he said.
“We didn’t give up hope and we were still hoping to get there [NPL2] next year.
“We lost to Melbourne City and Box Hill and there was at least three points there we should have got. There was a draw against Brunswick and if we got points from there, we would have stayed up.
“It’s something that we were still playing for something in round 28.”
In the end, the Ranges finished eighth, with a 10-6-11 record, having not won a match in the first nine rounds.
The Whittlesea Ranges will be facing the unknown in the NPL 3 competition next season, having been in NPL 2 since it was introduced.
The new competition will include teams from NPL 2 and state league 1.
Karkaletsis said while he isn’t contracted for next year, early talks were encouraging that he would be back.
“They told me to start preparing for next year whether we’re in NPL2 or 3.
“We’ll sit down in the near future.
“The first thing is to maintain the playing group, at least the core of it.
“I think the club would like to go straight back up into NPL 2.”
St Albans claimed the NPL 2 west title.