BATHURST City have dropped outside of the women's Central West Premier League Hockey top four following a tough 1-0 loss to hosts Parkes United on Saturday.
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In a heartbreaking series of plays after the full-time siren, City had four successive penalty corner opportunities to try and salvage a point but missed out on each occasion.
Parkes had taken the lead in the first quarter following a clinical start against a City side who were feeling the bye round hangover, but once that subsided the visitors found new life.
From the second quarter onwards City started to put together better passages of play in attack and their defence began to lift.
Those efforts continued deep into the second half but City couldn't quite find the goal they needed.
It sees the Bathurst side remain on 14 points while Parkes have jumped them after moving to 16 points.
Souths didn't do City any favours by winning Saturday's Bathurst derby against St Pat's, jumping up to 20 points to hold on to outright third place.
City coach Mal Willott said if his side had managed to match Parkes' intensity in the first quarter then there could have been a different outcome.
"Parkes came out red hot and they played really well, and I'd say that we were lucky to only be 1-0 down after the first quarter," he said.
"I thought that we were able to match them in the second quarter and then in the second half I thought we played better than they did. We had four shorts after the whistle to even it and we couldn't quite get it.
"It was just one of those days where the hockey gods just weren't on our side."
The task now gets a lot trickier for City with just three games of the regular season to go, but Willott said that if the team can bring more of the standard of hockey they showed from the second half then they can make an impact.
"We changed up how we were playing in that half. They were playing a lot down the middle whereas we were playing out and around, and we did that better. We also started to hold the ball well and make better decisions," he said.
"I never like the week off because we always seem to come out flat the next week, and that was the case today. By the time we got things together they'd already got their goal. They just played really well in that first quarter and we didn't seem to know what to do about it.
"It's disappointing to lose because the girls gave it their all. I think that a draw would have been great."
The job doesn't get a whole lot easier for City as they get set to face Souths next round, who are fresh of a victory over St Pat's.
However, City will be encouraged to win not only to keep their finals chances burning strong but to also complete victories over both their Bathurst rivals in the same season.
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