The start of a series of games without several of our best players - Milicevic and Krncevic out suspended for at least one further game each, Recchia and O'Dor out with injuries, forcing us to dig deep into our pool of reserve talent. That meant Waterson at right back, Jake Vandermey and Topalaovic paired up at centreback, and Nicky Jacobs paired up with De Nittis up front, along with Abdel Deroune being used as our number one keeper.
Add to all that a Dandenong Thunder side who have looked exceedingly good this year, and who've just been docked six points for disciplinary issues, and it was all set up for a backs against the wall effort from start to finish. And indeed the visitors came out firing, applying sustained pressure across the field which scarcely let up in the first half. Our midfield was in ruin, as the Thunder came and came again looking for the opening goal. A quality performance by Deroune, as well as fine efforts by Topalovic and Vandermey, both in general play and in last ditch efforts.
The second half was better for us in general, and we had our chances to snatch the lead - Fernando fired over after a tidy pass by De Nittis, and Leigh Minopoulos waited too long to take a shot. Still, it was almost all counterattacking play, and we had few if any corners, and next to no free kicks in dangerous areas. Kyle Joryeff came on for De Nittis, and did ok - indeed, it would be hard to blame the strikers for anything today, such was the dismal level of supply to them.
It would be easy to say we lucked out a bit, and that we ground out a suitable result under the circumstances, but it would be remiss to leave out the negatives as well. Bobby Russell and substitute Kamal Ibrahim certainly have their uses and their merits - but trying to hold off bigger and stronger opponents, especially when the pass is on to a teammate? Also, we gave the ball away cheaply on a few occasions, and were stretched out numerous times by Dandenong, whose crossing let them down enormously.
Still, in many ways a draw looked a like long shot even prior to the game, so credit to the boys for sticking it out to the end, and hopefully we can ride our luck a little further until some of the big name players come back.