Box Hill United’s senior men stumbled to their first league defeat in four matches, as they went down 3-1 to derby rivals Northcote City on Saturday at the John Cain Memorial Park.
Adrian Boglis and Mehdi Sarwari scored early for Northcote, while Amer Abdullah trebled their lead before Jacob Byrns got his first Box Hill goal late in the second-half.
For the visitors, left-back Tom Podaridis received his marching orders close to the final whistle for protesting a free-kick decision from the referee.
The hosts were intent on putting Box Hill under the cosh from the offing, as Christian Pavlidis had to intervene a Noah Mihailidis attempt on three minutes.
But in the space of four minutes, Northcote were 2-0 up, thanks to Boglis capitalising on a defensive mix-up in the Box Hill rearline, while Sarwari was quick to react and score via a deflection following a corner kick on 11 minutes.
The visitors did show an improved urgency as the half-time drew closer, with the enterprising Podaridis and captain Nikolas Kokolakis both seeing their long-range volleys fly away from target after encouraging moves for Box Hill.
After the change of ends, the Con Karagiannidis-tutored United outfit sprung to life and began turning the screw.
Hard-working attacking-midfielder Isaiah Joseph was at the heart of this revival, earning a corner through a deflection from the left, but Delarno Pharoe’s delivery left much to be desired.
Moments later, Rowan McNamee found Joseph with a floated cross from the edge of the box, but the latter could only flick his header off target under pressure.
On 55 minutes, Box Hill carved successive scoring chances, but were left frustrated. While McNamee’s right-footed attempt was hooked off the goal line by the Northcote defence, Northcote goalkeeper Griffin Mcmaster somehow scrambled across to deny Pharoe’s toed effort.
Northcote threatened on the counter, by forcing a flag-kick which was partially cleared but Pavlidis had to serve up a reflex save to stop George Tsalikidis’ venomous drive at an angle from 25 yards.
But Box Hill were unfortunate to concede a third, as Abdullah tucked home on 60 minutes through a sea of legs to take the game away.
The arrival of young midfield duo of Amr Mohd. Sarip and Jeremy Vun transformed the visitors’ approach, as the latter set up McNamee on 65 minutes who shot away from goal from 20 yards.
Five minutes later, a Box Hill corner saw Andreas Miltiadou finding towering centre-back Dennis Nielsen, who nodded it down for McNamee, but the striker could not guide the ball home at the near post.
Box Hill finally had joy on 77 minutes, as first-half substitute Byrns managed to dive in and head home at the far post from Javier Marangos’ fine right-wing cross.
Nielsen then clipped the crossbar with his header after Box Hill had earned a corner late in the game, and Podaridis saw a straight red soon after to compound the misery for the side.
Box Hill United starting XI: T Aresti, I Joseph (A Mohd. Sarip, 64’), N Kokolakis © (J Vun, 64’), N Lacagnina (J Byrns, 40’), J Marangos, R McNamee, A Miltiadou, D Nielsen, C Pavlidis (GK), D Pharoe, T Podaridis
Substitutes not used: Y Skliros (GK), S Azagane