A late surge wasn’t enough for Melbourne Knights, losing 3-2 to Dandenong City and ending any dreams of another FFA Cup run.
Andrew Marth’s side went into the fixture in the midst of a terrible dip in form, with the timing of injures and suspensions to key players coming at the worst possible moment.
Tom Cahill missed again through injury and joined the growing list which includes Marijan Cvitkovic, Joshua Brekalo, Jake Barker Daish, Patrick Gerhardt and Harry Cakarun. Chalmers was unavailable due to suspension and with the aforementioned Cakarun injured, the goalkeeping duties fell to youth product Gabriel Matti.
As has been the pattern in the past few weeks, the Knights begun the match strongly and looked the more likely to open the scoring. Surey’s header from close range was tipped around the post by Salcin in the contests first meaningful attack in the 9th minute.
Salcin was called into action again just four minutes later, diving low to his right to stop a long range Hicks strike.
The Knights continued to pile on the early pressure winning successive corners and free kicks in dangerous positions, but lacked the finish in front of goal to capitalise on the opportunities.
The pattern of the past matches continued, with the Knights conceded just when they looked the most likely to score. Former Knight Mate Dugandzic was allowed too much room and jinked around his marker before slotting past Matti on his non-preferred foot.
It quickly went from bad to worst for the visitors just 3 minutes later, Dugandzic again punished the Knights poor marking slotting the ball into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
Surey almost got a goal back immediately for the Knights, narrowly heading wide of Salcin’s left upright from close range.
Melbourne Knights begun the second half on the front foot, with Hicks coming close to halving the deficit in the 52nd minute, narrowly shooting wide of of right upright with Salcin left rooted to the spot.
Dandenong City continued to make the most of their chances and extended their lead in the 57th minute. Shaun Filipovic tapped home from close range to compete a swift counter attacking move from the home side.
That goal looked to have killed off the contest, until Andrew Marth decided to roll the dice by bringing on defender Damian Miskulin to play as a second striker in the 77th minute.
Just five minutes later and some Kamsoba magic set up a chance for Miskulin, who had no problem expertly finishing past Salcin to make it 3-1 in the 84th minute.
Less then 60 seconds later Jason Hicks unleashed an unstoppable shot from just outside the area and suddenly the Knights were back in the contest with all the momentum.
The final five minutes saw the Knights throw everything but the kitchen sink at a nervous Dandenong defence, with a golden opportunity falling to substitute Miskulin in the 92nd minute only to send his effort agonisingly wide of the mark from close range.
It was a valiant effort from the young Knights outfit, however also a case of ‘too little too late’ as the loss sees the dream of an FFA Cup extinguished.
Focus will squarely on the league now, with the Knights on the road to face local rivals Green Gully on Saturday evening.
Melbourne Knights Squad: 20.Gabriel MATTI, 4.Ben SUREY, 6.Milan BATUR, 7.Rob ZADWORNY (2.Luke Jurcic 29′), 9.Kym HARRIS, 11.Nikola JURKOVIC (5.Damien MISKULIN), 12.Anthony DEZIC, 15.Danny DIXON, 16.Jason HICKS, 23.Tim PURCELL, 27.Elvis KAMSOBA.
Not Used: 1.Mark BULIC, 15.Adrian TARDIO, 32.Marcelo DE LA PLAZA-SANCHEZ.
GOALS: MISKULIN 84′ HICKS 85.
Dandenong City Squad: 1.Damir SALCIN, 2.Luke EYLES, 5.Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7.Keegan ZIADA (11.Andy JEREZ 72′), 10.David STIRTON, 12.Shaun FILIPOVIC, 14.Mate DUGANDZIC (9.Paul HARVEY 80′), 15.Jayden UNMACH, 19.Shaun KELLY, 23.Nicolas KALMER, 36.Steven TOPALOVIC (4.Luke BURGESS 53′).
Not Used: 22.Zac DEMETRI 17.Jarod BLACKBURN.
GOALS: DUGANDZIC 24′, 27′, FILIPOVIC 57′.