Sydney FC has copped a three point deduction for salary cap breaches, which playmaker David Carney describes as a serious setback to the club's A-League title defence.
But the 23-year-old has faith in his teammates, saying they are playing well enough to still finish in the crucial second spot and knock over minor premier Melbourne Victory come finals time.
Sydney FC's board on Thursday chose not to appeal the lost points and a $129,000 fine handed down by Football Federation Australia for salary cap breaches.
"With three A-League matches still to play, two of those away, a finals series commencing on January 26 and the Asian Champions League in March, the team needs to be able to focus on what is happening on the park, not what might or might not happen as the result of an appeal," Sydney chairman Edmund Capon said.
"Whilst we are still not happy with the process, we believe that the likelihood of success on appeal, together with a risk that the penalty on appeal may have been greater, led the board deciding to put this behind them and move on.
"We cannot stress enough that at all times the club acted in a manner, which it believed to be appropriate, and reliant on certain FFA advice.
"The payments in question were made at the end of 2004 and early 2005 during the set-up of the club, prior to the competition launch in September 2005.
"That being said, we reluctantly accept the outcome. It is a lesson that we have learned the hard way."
Sydney is still second on the table, but only one point clear of Adelaide United who meet Queensland Roar on Thursday night.
The A-League finals system rewards the team finishing second by giving it a two bites at the cherry and an opportunity to secure a home grand final.
"I honestly think Melbourne wouldn't want us to finish second because I think they're a bit scared of us," Carney said.
"I think we're playing well enough now to beat them.
"But all I know is we lost the three points, and at this stage of the season it's a big setback for the lads.
"We've got to get that second spot if we want to win back-to-back championships. If we don't I think it will be very hard to win it again."
Sydney host last-placed New Zealand Knights on Sunday in what has become a crunch match, with only nine points up for grabs between now and the finals.
New Zealand comes off a 3-1 win over Queensland.
"We've got to treat Sunday's game like a cup final really," Carney said.
"If we play like we did last week than I'm sure we'll have no problems, but we can't take them lightly.
"We saw what they did against Queensland last week, and I'm sure they'll be full of confidence."