Perth Glory missed the opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the NPL WA table to four points after they conceded a late equaliser against Floreat Athena on Sunday.
John Gibson’s side looked well set to extend their winning run to eight games after first-half goals from Yacoub Mustafa and Michael Domfeh had cancelled out Ryan Malton’s close-range opener.
But a smart finish with his back to goal by Robert Petkov just minutes from time earned Floreat a deserved point in their fight against relegation.
“We’ve spoken just now about how far we’ve come as a group. In years gone by we would have been happy with the result, but now we’re at the top of the table it feels like a missed opportunity,” Gibson said.
“Fair play to Floreat, they’re fighting for their lives. But we gave away two soft goals and that’s tough to take.”
This was a first game in charge for new Floreat coach Garrett McDuling and he was happy with what he saw.
“It was a good showing. We know Glory are performing well week in and week out,” he said.
“Today we set out to compete. I’ve inherited a quality team and it’s about slowly learning their attributes.
“I think it’s [our league position] surprised a lot of people, especially the players, but it’s a wake-up call.”
Cockburn City moved up to second on Saturday with a 7-0 hammering of bottom club Joondalup United.
Daniel Robinson scored four and Cockerels coach Scott Miller praised his team’s attitude.
“Playing against the bottom team is always a banana skin but I felt we were professional and comfortable before they had a player sent off,” he said.
“We dominated a game that we should dominate, in past seasons we’ve probably struggled when we have been the favourites, this year we’ve kind of embraced that.
“People pencil you in for three points because Joondalup are at the bottom, but no one ever gives you the three points.”
Bayswater City are down to third a point further back following their 4-1 loss at Armadale on Saturday.
Baysie, who play Glory in a huge match next Saturday, have now lost three straight matches and coach Chris Coyne did not mince his words.
“We played like we were scared today, which was the most disappointing thing for me,” he said.
“I don’t care if we lose, for me it’s not about the result, it’s about the performance and not playing with fear.
“The players have to be held accountable now, it’s now time for them to stand up and make sure they’re doing everything they can to win games and at the moment they’re just not doing that.”
The race for the title has closed up so much that Inglewood United in fourth are now just four points off the top with seven games to play.
They won 2-1 at Sorrento and coach Andy Keogh said: “The lads are in good spirit, we’re just ticking along nicely and taking each game as it comes and waiting to see what happens above us.”
Perth SC also cannot be discounted from a second title in three seasons after their 3-1 success at Forrestfield United.
With Joondalup United all but consigned to the drop, the fight to avoid joining them in Division One is even tighter than at the top.
Forrestfield and Stirling Lions occupy the other two relegation spots, although Sorrento and Subiaco are also on the same points.
Armadale 4 (Jackson 19min, Quinncroft 29, Atkins 61, 72)
Bayswater City 1 (Albano 67min pen)
Cockburn City 7 (O’Brien 26min, Robinson 32, 58, 81, 90, Skorich 51, Mello 85)
Joondalup United 0
Stirling Lions 0
ECU Joondalup 3 (Amphlett 2min, Nicol 50, 81)
Sorrento 1 (Teece 31min)
Inglewood United 2 (Keogh 28min, Cyrus 37)
Balcatta 1 (Gate 59min)
Forrestfield United 1 (Sinclair 14min)
Perth SC 3 (Catarcione 11min, Milenkovic 50, 78)
Perth Glory 2 (Mustafa 31min, Domfeh 44)
Floreat Athena 2 (Malton 25min, Petkov 89)