SOUTHS’ chances of claiming a spot in the men’s Premier League Hockey major semi-final was dealt a big blow on Saturday when going down 7-1 to Lithgow Panthers.
Souths went into the match sitting third on the ladder with Panthers and St Pat’s the two sides ranked above it.
But rather than close the gap to those sides, it widened as Lithgow’s hunger to win the ball when it mattered saw it come away from Bob Roach Field with a convincing win.
“It was really disappointing, it was not what I expected today and not what I wanted,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
“Lithgow’s sense of urgency and desperation outweighed ours. We talked before the game about aggression and making sure we got to the ball first, but Lithgow outplayed us in that sense.
“We just lacked composure and lacked urgency, they were the two biggest things which let us down today. It’s a mental game as much as it is a skills game and today, they outplayed us in the way they structured things and went about their business.”
Souths actually had the first chance of Saturday’s match when earning a penalty corner in the fourth minute, but goalkeeper Logan Hunter came up with a top stick save to deny Jono Cole.
Panthers’ first chance came at the nine minute mark, and unlike Souths, the visitors found a result. Brandon Horner got in behind the two blues defence and while goalkeeper John Rudge made a good sliding block to stop him at the top of the circle, the ball spilled to Taylor Dolbel who fired into an open net.
Panthers made it 2-0 when Trent Macdonald scored off their first penalty corner play before two goals in as many minutes – Horner and Jake Lewis captalising on quick counter-attacks – pushed the score out to 4-0.
Souths needed to be the first to score after the break to be any chance of a comeback and Daniel Carter provided that hope when he cleaned up off Hunter’s pads following Cole’s initial shot in a penalty corner play.
But while Souths continue to find itself in attacking position and notched up plenty of circle penetrations, Hunter made some sharp blocks - including a one-on-one save against Cole – and Panthers’ defenders scrambled well.
When Horner once more got in behind Souths’ defence on the back of a smart long ball he made it 5-1 and just over 60 seconds later he struck again.
Three minutes from time Horner made it four for the match with a slick reverse stick effort in a penalty corner play.