THE battle to hold onto third place in women's Premier League Hockey just got a little more intense for Souths after they went down 3-1 to Orange United on Saturday.
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The two blues watched a 1-0 half-time lead disappear on the weekend against a United side who were determined to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder and reignite their finals hopes.
An understrength Souths made the hosts earn their goals in the second half with an admirable effort in defence, which included having to see off a barrage of short corner attempts, but Orange would eventually find their way through in the third quarter.
The score remained 2-1 for across the fourth quarter, with the visitors determined to find an equaliser, but a late goal to United ended those hopes.
Possession was stacked heavily in Orange's favour throughout the match, putting Souths' defensive quality and their depth to the test.
Souths coach Scott Hanrahan said, despite the scoreline, that the defence of his side was worth highlighting.
"We defended the whole game, more or less," he said.
"We had a pretty good start to the game with an early goal, and we started to get on top of them, but a few things didn't go our way and we were in a position of defending quite a lot.
"We defended a high amount of short corners - and it's great that we can defend them - but what makes it hard is that we're not getting them at the other end."
The result has added extra intrigue to the finals battle with just four rounds of the regular season remaining.
Panthers have already locked in finals with their 32-point haul while St Pat's are getting close to doing the same, on 22.
Souths hold onto third place with 16 points while Bathurst City (14 points), Orange United and Parkes (both 12 points) are hot on their heels.
The Souths squad still have a bye to serve, leaving them with just three more games to earn as many points as they can.
Hanrahan said his side weren't short on enthusiasm, and he expects that to still remain at a high over the last month of regular season action.
"There were a few players out for us, which always comes into play, but the girls that did play did an amazing job and I can't really fault anyone. I was pretty proud of the girls' effort," he said.
"I think it was definitely a tighter contest than 3-1. They got a late goal that sort of blew it out a little bit.
"Obviously the loss isn't great but at the same time there were plenty of positives to take out of it. that's for sure. I thought that Daisy Morrissey and Samantha Brown both played really well and were standouts for us."
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