Illawarra Stingrays' finals hopes took a massive blow via a 4-1 loss to North West Sydney Koalas on Sunday.
Three excellent first half goals from the Koalas put the three points out of reach of the Rays, now our points adrift of a finals spot with five games to play.
Coach Graham Shaw said the club needed to forget the loss immediately and refocus on their finals aspirations.
"The next three games are the crucial games now," he said.
"Northbridge on the weekend, Football NSW Institute during the week and then Uni ... we really need three out of three from them to keep the finals hopes alive.
"With five games left we can probably afford to drop one game but any more than that I don't think we will quite get there."
Heading into Sunday's clash, the Stingrays had been unbeaten in three matches and were on track to reach the top-four. But a slow start proved very costly.
Hosts Koalas twice scored from long range and bagged another from a free-kick to establish commanding 3-0 half-time lead.
Heidi Makrillos was the chief destroyer, scoring a brace and was well supported with goals from Emma Stanbury and Hannah Beard.
Jordan Baker pulled one back for the Stingrays with a header in the second half, but it proved a mere consolation.
"The bounce of the ball didn't really go our way ... before we knew it they had a little bit of possession and with their first three chances they got three goals basically," Shaw said.
"It was one of those games.
"We were right in it [but] 4-1 definitely isn't an indication of how the game went. We had our chances but couldn't put any in."
Elsewhere, Macarthur Rams all-but wrapped up the regular season crown with a 2-1 win over Manly United.
The Rams are 15 points clear at the top of the competition with a goal difference of 33.
Chance to dine with All-Stars
The A-League All-Stars will attend Football South Coast’s annual Sports Dinner on Friday, August 1, in their first public engagement for their six-day camp in the Illawarra.
The visit will include many local club and community engagements but will kick-off with dinner at the Villa D’Oro. It doubles as FSC’s annual Sports Dinner.
‘‘We kicked off the first Football South Coast Sports function last year and it is something we wanted to do on an annual basis,’’ FSC chief executive Ann-Marie Balliana said.
‘‘With the A-League All-Stars in town, we thought it would be great to have them in attendance.’’
The evening will include a three-course meal and beverages, with player and coach interviews taking place throughout the night.
The All-Stars squad will be captained by superstar Alessandro Del Piero and features World Cup Socceroos Matthew Spiranovic and Eugene Galekovic.
Tickets are $120 per person or $1100 for a table of 10.
Contact the office at FSC on 42856929 for bookings.