What an eventful evening that was. You know it's going to be one of those nights when you're walking down a city laneway and some drunk with a drink in each hand stumbles out of some hole in the walling singing Billy Joel's Piano Man - for some reason Steve from Broady looked quite confused by the spectacle. Probably too young to be a connoisseur of drunken classics of yore.
After killing an hour or so at the Charles Dickens Tavern, the Public Transport Faction was joined by some interlopers for the trip out to Huntingdale. Except we never got that far, because we got off at Oakleigh instead so the interlopers could buy some more booze to drink by the railway tracks. And isn't it always great to see some runt with a rat tail try to heap abuse at you from 50 metres away? Stay classy Oakleigh.
Getting into the ground, it was obvious there was a bit of a buzz about the game. Later we find out that Ljubo Milicevic's papers have come through after the FFV was allegedly bombarded with media inquiries about why he hadn't been allowed to register. Add to that a near brawl when he tried to get into the ground, and a top three clash which has a bit of added spite to it, got even more an edge.
And three minutes in, we scored, a wonderful volley by Marinos Gasparis who is having a pretty good season so far. But not too long after we're penalised with the first of several mystifying free kicks around the area - Ricky Diaco putting away a low drive which got through or around the defensive wall far too easily.
The game then settled down into the following pattern - South would try attack with quick short passing, both through the middle and out wide with overlapping players, while Oakleigh mostly went wide, trying in particular to exploit Steven Topalovic on their left hand side. Milicevic's inclusion was pivotal - while not completely negating the defensive frailties of this season, at least Oakleigh were unable to win a ball in the air, nor were they able to get behind the defence.
Some may have been disappointed with the spectacle, but I felt that the first hour or so was excellent to watch. Oakleigh almost took the lead towards the end of the first half with a deflected shot which hit the post. 1-1 at half time was a fair outcome. The second half started off much the same way, but once we got ahead, with a Steven O'Dor header from the six yard box, the game deteriorated, as both teams resorted to long balls along the wings.
Peter Zois apparently lost his cool at being called a traitor by fans behind the goals, and was probably at fault when they conceded their second. If there's one area of the game where Zois struggles, it's in commanding his six yard box on high crosses, and much like the equaliser we conceded against Bentleigh early last season, he let rip into the defense rather than take responsibility. Perhaps the video footage will vindicate him though.
Gasparis should have wrapped the game up after he faced an empty net, but succumbing to a rush of blood to the head, he blasted it over. The ceaseless free kicks around the box, often for reasons I couldn't fathom, had us all on edge, but for the most they were harmless. Zaim Zeneli had an adequate game in goals, but wasn't tested too often. Jesse Krncevic came through the middle late, but delayed taking a shot, with Zois smothering the ball, but we still got the win, and after several years of struggling to win at Oakleigh, that's now two in a row.
Still no cleansheet, and one wonders what might happen once Ljubo goes. But going forward we look good. Sebastian Petrovic has started passing the ball sideways and backwards too often, and just doesn't have the pace need to win balls even in his preferred middle of the park position. Rama had a quiet game, rarely noticed him out there.
There was one bitter individual standing to the side of Clarendon Corner (who had an excellent game by the way), heaping abuse on Ljubo - it was all sour grapes though, as Oakleigh had tried desperately to sign him before he'd put pen to paper with us. And during the second half I somehow ended up in a conversation which involved comparing NBA and NBL players of bygone eras. Mark Price or Sam McKinnon? Michael Jordan or Andrew Gaze? Clyde Drexler or Shane Heal?
Anyway, that difficult two week stretch is over, and we're back at our home away from next round against the Melbourne Knights. Could we possibly get a clean sheet? Will we be as switched on as we were last night? What random conversation will sprout up this time? And what's going to be for dinner? So many questions and too much time to think about them.