It is still possible but very unlikely for Tatura to make the finals after it felt the full wrath of Shepparton United on Sunday.
And Tatura had to do it without star striker Tariq Nikoi-Kotey, who was sensationally handed a one-match suspension on Friday morning by Bendigo Amateur Soccer League.
The Ibises currently sit nine points outside a top-four position with four games to go, but what left coach Brent Mathers most puzzled was the absence of his English striker.
At 10am on Friday the Ibises received an email from the governing body detailing Nikoi-Kotey’s suspension ahead of their must-win clash, and with little time to respond the club was forced to abide by the sentence.
‘‘It is part of the rules and regulations. I believe that you are not allowed to speak out to the media about certain things and unfortunately we have had to cop the consequences of that,’’ Mathers said.
‘‘It threw everything into disarray for us, we had little time to respond but it is what it is.’’
Both Goulburn Valley-based clubs were involved in a post-match incident the last time they squared off in round seven, but they have since moved on.
‘‘The most disappointing thing is that it came at very short notice, but we move on and I think to Tariq’s credit he handled it well,’’ Mathers said.
‘‘I personally thought that the league would have acted or advised us a little earlier, but we accept the punishment and now hopefully we can prepare to fight for finals.’’
The visitors’ weekend went from bad to worse at Central Ave with United taking a one-nil lead into half-time.
Ermal Marku opened the scoring the opening minute for United through a well-taken finish, before doubling the hosts’ lead just after half-time with a sublime strike from outside the box.
Ibises goalkeeper Daniel Coombs was forced to make a number of saves, keeping his side in it, however Fedah Aziz finally found the back of the net on his third attempt, pleasing playing coach Roven Shaholli.
‘‘It was a decent game I thought, it was great to get the win especially over another local club like Tatura,’’ Shaholli said.
‘‘It was fought in good spirits and I am just happy for the boys to get another win on the board and to continue our push to finals.’’
The Ibises were given a glimmer of hope when former Goulburn Valley Suns winger Thomas Leech pegged one back, however all hope was lost when Ruben Goldwater secured his first and United’s fourth.
Shaholli’s men now sit in third position and only four points behind Shepparton South in second, while Mathers’ side will need to win their remaining four games to make a late push from sixth position.
‘‘Mathematically we can still make it and we will continue to fight until the end,’’ Mathers said.
‘‘When the chips are down this is where the boys need to show some character and I think the players are capable of that.’’
Sixteen-year-old right back Josh Scramizzi limped off in the second half with what seems to be a serious right knee injury, leaving a souring taste for the travelling faithful.
‘‘It was a disappointing day all up for us, we can cop the fact that we were outplayed and United were just too good, too quick and far better,’’ Mathers said.
‘‘But it is hard to take it when someone gets injured and at just 16 you hope that it is nothing too serious.’’