Cliff wasn't at the game, and my own match reports are notoriously slight, so here's one prepared by a loyal reader, which may or may not reflect the anguish of the experience.
In a miserable and uninspiring display of football, South Melbourne has virtually thrown away the opportunity of challenging for a finals position by going down to the Fawkner Blues by a single goal at C.B. Smith Reserve.
South went into the match on the back of a hard-fought 2-2 draw with the Melbourne Knights at Bob Jane Stadium the previous round, however the away side had not won a match since defeating Oakleigh in round 17. Fawkner entered the match rooted at the bottom of the Foxtel Cup table and resigned to the fact that they would be relegated to State League One at the conclusion of the season. Nevertheless, the home side saw the match against South as an opportunity to knock off a big name club in the Foxtel Cup and in the process try to leap-frog Frankston at the bottom of the ladder.
South began the match the stronger of the two sides and despite playing extremely poorly should have been at least three goals ahead at the halftime interval. However this was not to be the case, as Nathan Caldwell headed two golden opportunities wide of the target and Sebastian Petrovic unacceptably missed a fantastic one-on-one chance with Fawkner goalkeeper Michael Fiorenza, with his final shot going wide of the far post and out for a goal kick. Fiorenza played a big part in his side going into the halftime break with a clean sheet, as the Fawkner custodian produced some excellent saves to deny further South forays forward. When South did eventually find the back of the net through Fernando de Moraes, the goal was disallowed for offside.
The second half was no different to the opening 45 minutes, with the ball camped within South's attacking half of the field. However, despite the dominance in possession and chances created, the away side constantly made the wrong decisions when moving forward and as a result hardly ever posed a threat to Fiorenza or his defence. Caldwell tried to atone for his earlier misses by pouncing on a Daniel Rocco error in defence, but his final shot flew wide of Fiorenza's goal, failing to trouble the home side.
As has so often been the case for South in 2008, the game was won by a single moment of brilliance by the opposition. The home side had hardly posed a problem for South keeper Tommi Tomich, however in the 69th minute Sebastian Petralito easily skipped past the stagnant South defenders on the left hand side of the field and from just outside the area managed to curl a brilliant shot across Tomich's goal and into the bottom right corner of the goal. Despite the dominance, South were once again behind and fighting an uphill battle to save their 2008 season.
The away fans lifted in voice and in encouragement in an attempt to inspire their players to lift for them and put away their opportunities against a side who, having scored their goal, were quite happy to sit back and play on the counter-attack. The passionate encouragement soon turned to anger as the away side failed to change their attitude and in fact played worse than the opening half, where they had at least created several excellent opportunities despite playing sub-standard football. Despite the ball spending the majority of the final 20 minutes of the match in the Fawkner defensive half of the field, constant poor distribution of the ball, amateur crossing and shocking ball control skills ensured that South would not create another decent opportunity to even take a point off the bottom side in the league, which was why the final whistle was met with roars of disapproval from the away fans. In contrast, the Fawkner players were over the moon, as the result meant that they had moved off the bottom of the ladder with four rounds to play.
Once again, other results in the Foxtel Cup over the weekend fell in South's favour. However, its constant inability to control the destiny of its own matches has almost surely seen the lakeside club sink to a new low because for the first time in its 49 year history the blue and white army will almost certainly miss finals football action in consecutive seasons. South is languishing in 9th place on the ladder, five points clear of relegation but six points shy of 6th placed Oakleigh, who have two games in hand. Like the previous season, South looks almost certain of finishing in an extremely disappointing mid-table position, leaving coach Michael Michalakopoulos to seriously question the futures of some of his players at Bob Jane Stadium.
The matches do not get any easier for South, as their next opponent is third-placed Altona Magic. Fawkner's next test involves a tricky trip to Jack Edwards Reserve to face the Oakleigh Cannons. Both matches are next Sunday, with South's match against Altona kicking off at 3pm at Bob Jane Stadium.