HORSHAM Falcons' finals hopes have taken a hit after their three-nil loss to Sebastopol Vikings at Dudley Cornell Park, Horsham, on Sunday afternoon.
Sitting in fifth position, the Falcons needed three points to keep pace with the Ballarat and District Soccer Association's division three open top four.
But the result instead saw the Falcons slip five points behind fourth place.
Falcons coach Mick Clark said the team had arguably the toughest run home of any side in the competition.
The Falcons will visit bottom-placed Creswick Orange before finishing the season against the competition's top four sides Creswick Maroon, Daylesford, Maryborough and Bacchus Marsh.
"It makes it pretty hard for us," Clark said. "But if we have everyone available, we'll be a chance."
The Vikings struck early on Sunday, goaling in the 12th minute.
The visitors retained the lead for the bulk of the game.
In the final half-hour, a long-range attempt from Ben Rowan hit the crossbar, while Max Facey found himself one-on-one with the keeper but couldn't put the chance away.
With the Falcons eagerly chasing a winner late in the game, an open shot from the edge of the box doubled the Vikings' lead in the 85th minute, before a third goal was headed into the back of the net in the 87th minute.
Clark said his side had been outplayed.
"Credit to them, they were just too strong and too good," he said.
"Their talk was strong and their control of the ball was better.
They did a lot of good talking and ours dropped off a bit. We're normally better than that."
In tough conditions, the bigger Vikings used their strength to their advantage.
"I think we had a few blokes hesitating," Clark said.
"The Vikings were good in the air and they were a bigger team."
The Falcons were not helped by injuries during the game to Liam Andrew and keeper Nick Bamford.
Bamford's injury required Eli Macchia to don the gloves, before he too left the field injured in a collision which led to the Vikings' final goal.
Clark said while it was not the side's best performance, it was not for lack of effort, with Lachie Rowan, Kane Clark and Dave Lancaster among the team's strongest contributors.
"Lachie was tireless in the middle, Kane was second-best and I thought Dave was really good at the back," he said.
Clark said the Falcons' defence would now require reshuffling after Jason Wilksch played his last game for the season on Sunday.
He will take up a sport scholarship at Southwestern Christian University in the United States.
The Falcons under-15s enjoyed their second win of the season in their match against Forest Rangers.
Reuben Macchia and Asher Leslie scored hat-tricks as the Falcons thrashed the Rangers 10-1.
Noah Talbot also scored twice, while Marcus Luciani and Bo Bo Oo Shwe Ta Lee both found the back of the net once.