Conversely, Trent Rixon, a player not particularly rated by several Knights fans (mostly due to his apparent struggles against them over the years), ghosted in unmarked at the back post on 67 minutes, as a cross from the right eluded the clustered Knights defence, and with his first time finish sent South through to the preliminary final, its first appearance in that game since 2005 (remembering that in 2006, we skipped the preliminary final courtesy of our 2-1 win in the major semi final against Altona Magic).
After its near catastrophic mid-season slump, South has now lost just one league game out of its last 10 (to the Knights away), and is just one game away from a first grand final berth since 2006. Standing in the way are Northcote City, the deserved minor premiers who will be out to avoid a straight sets exit ala the infamous 1995 Port Melbourne team.
It was also South's first win against the Knights since 2011, and our first win against the Knights at Somers Street since 2010 (though that wasn't our last win there - that honour went to this dead rubber win against George Cross). It was also, somewhat remarkably, our third consecutive clean sheet after months of battling to even get near one.
Watching the video below by MFootball, you'd think we were comprehensively outplayed for the vast majority of this game. In reality that's only half right.
While we weren't great on Friday night, I reckon we still had the majority of possession in the first half, and a couple of chances as well. But possession football without much meaningful end product isn't very telegenic. The Knights squandered several gilt-edged chances, with their ultra direct style of play - directed mostly into the deep wing areas - seeing South put onto the backfoot almost every time after we turned the ball over.
|Brian Bran soars high to win another header. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.|
The wings were once again were we were most vulnerable - Mala and Kearney not helped though by lackluster performances by Nick Epifano and Nicky Soolsma. The former was subbed off for Rhys Meredith in the second half, with Soolsma moving to the left and looking a little better for it, with Meredith putting in an industrious performance on the right. Tyson Holmes too, put in the hard yards - if only his long range shot had crossed the line! (and according to the Knights fan known as Mumbles, it did).
The celebrations on Quarry Hill at the end of the match were short and sweet, as the crowd was compelled by security to exit quickly. The organisation of the match was very good, with entry into the game compounded not so much by not having enough ticket sellers, but more by the sheer volume of people coming to the game and the nightmarish traffic situation outside the ground. Credit to the Knights for charging a flat $10 rate as well.
|Players and fans celebrate the win, separated only by Somers Street's|
famous prison camp fencing. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The Only Stat That Matters
Goals: Trent Rixon, 67th minute.
Around The Grounds
Part 1 - Going Up, Going Down (and let's just ignore the ramifications of the NPL and Southern Stars debacles for now)
Got to Port Melbourne early to watch North Geelong take on Avondale Heights in a promotion/relegation playoff. North Geelong were the State League One team hoping to stay in that division for one more year (hence the chant from their fans of "one more year"), while Avondale Heights were looking for consecutive promotions. North Geelong had a decent amount of support, including a chanting group, though Avondale Heights also had their own support as well.
The first half was complete balls. I think it took about 25 minutes for the first chance of the game, which the North Geelong player chipped over the bar. After that, there was a little of goalmouth action at the other end of the field, but nothing to write home about. 0-0 at halftime and everyone hoping for something more substantial in the second half.
Avondale Heights picked up their game, getting some through balls going and forcing the North Geelong defence into scrambling. North Geelong were also a little better in the second half, but the spoils had to go to someone, and in the end the right team won. With about 10 minutes to play, Avondale Heights won a free kick on the edge of the box, which was curled over the top of the wall, skimming a North Geelong head, and grazing the outstretched arm of the keeper as it went into bottom right hand corner.
North Geelong had one glorious chance to equalise after that, but instead their recent status of being a bit of a yo-yo club continues. On a side note, the souv yesterday was crap. Eight dollars for 5 pieces of meat surrounded by doughy pita? Ridiculous.
Part 2 - Who's Next? (Two usually good teams serve up inedible slop, which they wouldn't dream of doing to us next week)
Northcote vs Bentleigh promised so much, and delivered so very little. Admittedly, I was only there because we had won the night before, otherwise I would have been far too miserable to go to this match. So while looking for an enjoyable night out, with hopefully a lot of injuries and cards, and a draining, bruising extra time period, both these clubs (and Bruno the referee) did their best to disappoint.
No cards, because while it was wasn't a very physical game, Bruno in his usual fashion didn't bother handing out any cards, even when one Northcote player was chopped from behind. Few injuries, because most of the turnovers were created not by crunching or physical challenges, but by the shocking passing games of both teams.
There was maybe one half-chance to Northcote late in the first half, but that was about it. The second half was little better. Both teams struggled to create meaningful passages of play, struggling with the tight confines of the ground, The defenses did their job, marking tightly and staying disciplined, but it would have been nice to see them under some genuine pressure as well.
Bentleigh opened the scoring with about 10 minutes to go, when De Vries was left wide open at the back post. Northcote won a penalty straight from the re-start, to send the game into extra time. Bentleigh took the chocolates with a headed goal by De Vries, sending their 50 fans completely mild.
The obvious concern is that both these teams can a play a lot better than that, and that they'll certainly lift when they play us.
Against Northcote this coming
Also, if we win this game, then we better hope that Bran doesn't pick up another yellow card. One more, and he'd miss the decider, if we made it that far.
Old Man Bus Stop Chat
Waiting for the bus home, got talking to a Northcote/South supporting old bloke. Another person who has noticed the nonsense being peddled by Elias Donoudis about present day South bearing no relation to olden times South.
When the number of titles won by a team are counted, they're never split into the 'good ones' and 'shit ones'.