GOAL-scoring midfielder PJ Galea struck a late equaliser to get Altona East Phoenix a deserved share of the points from a 1-1 draw with arch-rivals Altona City in the Football Federation Victoria men's state league2 north-west local derby at HC Kim Reserve on Saturday.
The Phoenix were kicking themselves post game, wondering how they let another match, which they dominated, slip through their fingers.
The point obtained barely caused a ripple to their mid-table standing.
Click on the image below for our gallery of the big game.
Phoenix coach Terry Antoniadis said his team failed to get a giant monkey off its back in a number of areas.
"We haven't won two in a row all year and we had a chance to do that. We haven't won away from home all year; we had a chance to do that.
"We haven't beaten a side below us on the table all year; we had an opportunity to do that. We didn't do it, we didn't get over the line and if we want to be a good side they're the games we have to win."
In an anomoly of their season, the Phoenix are yet to hold a losing record against any team above them on the ladder. In fact, they have shown to be more than competitive against the best, beating top two sides Fawkner Blues and Moreland City.
Goals - or a lack thereof - are killing the Phoenix's quest to challenge for promotion. Again on Saturday, they dominated possession and had more chances, only to be denied by a determined City goalkeeper and their own shooting woes.
"We had about five or six unbelievable chances, hit the post, missed one-on-ones. Their keeper made a save as good as I've ever seen and for me deserved 'best on ground'," Antoniadis said. "City scored with their first chance halfway through the second half and hit the crossbar shortly after. They could've gone 2-0 up and wrapped it up there.
"On the balance of play, we were the better side, but soccer has been the same for 150 years ... if you don't take your chances, you get punished and we drop two points again."
Galea's third goal in two games ensured the Phoenix didn't leave empty handed. The experienced, attacking midfielder has shown up the strikers in the goalscoring department over the past fortnight. "He's always had a knack of scoring goals from midfield," Antoniadis said. "He has composure and is a smart player who makes good decisions so I'm not surprised he's hit goal-scoring form."
The rock-solid Sam Winch provided another five-star performance in the heart of defence for Phoenix.
George Noulas, in his last game before a shoulder operation that will sideline him for the rest of the season, played with real vigour in the back half. Young gun Frank Proietto was the chief playmaker in the centre of the park.
A near-flawless performance from the Phoenix was spoilt by lack of potency. "You can't fault the performance or attitude," Antoniadis said. "They're a great group to work with and do their best to put into practice what you're asking. But it's all about putting the ball in the back of the net and we fell down in that area again."
SL1: Altona Magic 3 Bulleen Lions 0
SL2: Altona City 1 Altona East Phoenix 1
SL3: Williamstown 0 Melbourne University 2; North Sunshine Eagles 1 Yarraville 2
PL1: Maribyrnong Greens 2 FC Strathmore 4
PL2: Hoppers Crossing 3 Laverton Park 1
PL3: Heidelberg Stars 6 Melbourne City 1