Reigning champions Manly United have slumped to 9th position on the NSW National Premier League ladder after a shock 1-0 loss to Illawarra Stingrays at Cromer Park on Sunday.

A goal in the fifth minute by former Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers veteran Michelle Carney proved too much for Tom Hopley’s team to overhaul in the next 90 minutes of regular and injury time.

Carney’s goal came from a free kick which took a deflection and sent ‘keeper Bella Whitton in the opposite direction as the ball bounced over the line.

Highlights of Manly United vs Illawarra Stingrays, Cromer Park, Sunday 13-June. Video: NSW NPL.

Hopley described last weekend’s 2-1 win over Sydney University as “90 minutes of quality”, “a backs to the wall victory” and “a springboard into the second half of the competition”. And while the team is not back to the drawing board, it’s certainly a hiccup in their charge to the final four which will be decided in late August. 

Hopley said his team put themselves under more pressure than Illawarra did.

“We weren’t at the races early on and were punished for it. Finishing chances was once again a problem. I also think just general football smarts and decision making [was an issue]. We conceded a goal after a period under the pump. We had multiple opportunities to relieve pressure and play in their half for a bit,” Hopley said.

Best for United were defender Cass Davis who was “immense under pressure all game” and goalkeeper Bella Whitton who “stood tall with some fantastic saves”, according to Hopley.

“We fought hard for the full 90 and created loads of chances. Again I can’t fault the effort. We need to continue to work hard and finish our chances when we get them,” Hopley said.