MONARO Panthers goal keeper Rory Larkin may be in his first season as permanent goal keeper in the Canberra Premier League, but he showed true spirit in his side's 1-0 win over Canberra City at Riverside Oval last Sunday.
Head coach Njegosh Popovich was ecstatic with Larkin's effort that included three goal saves, one of which was threatening facing City striker Daniel Di-Salvatore one on one, but his quick hands saved the game for his side.
Popovich labelled that "a game changer", and gave full credit to his young backline which he felt stood up enough to give second placed side Canberra FC a run for their money on Sunday.
"We didn't concede any goals and that was the main thing," said Popovich.
"Full credit to our backline. We had Caleb Cullen-Rua, Ed McCarthy and Andrew Myssonski all starting in their first games, and they played brilliantly."
"Larkin really found his feet. It was a game changer [saved goal] wasn't it?"
Popovich said the upcoming Canberra FC clash would help set the benchmark for his players so they know how good they need to be.
"If they turn up like they did today and put the effort in, it won't be a walk over. They lost to Cooma today and lost last week too. Three in a row could be on the cards."
Popovich made three changes to his starting side after a demoralising 10-1 loss to Belconnen a fortnight ago in an attempt to see who his form players are, and took comfort in the efforts of his three debutants knowing they are only two wins outside the top four with seven matches still to play.
"With having a poor result you have to make changes. That was no disrespect to those boys, we just had to find something different and make a change," said Popovich.
"They grinded out Canberra City and all I can ask now is that they hang in there together."
Meanwhile the Panthers Women's Premier League side took a 6-1 win over Canberra Olympic at O'Connor last Sunday.