Friday, 18 April 2014

Five league wins on the trot - South Melbourne 2 Ballarat Red Devils 0

Despite the shorter turnaround between games, and the rumour that Nick Epifano may have received a knock during training in the lead up, South's lineup was unchanged. For their part, Ballarat had had two of their league games postponed already, including their game against Heidelberg which had been scheduled for last Sunday, so they would have been fresher, if not as match hardened as South.

For whatever reason - either because of last week's lackluster first half, or anticipating that Ballarat would sit back for large periods of the game - it looked like we came out to kill this game off in the first 15 minutes. It reminded me a bit of the old Ange Postecoglou era, where knowing that many of the teams we played at Lakeside would sit back with numbers behind the ball and try to frustrate us, we would try and have the game played on our terms.

But where those sides would almost inevitably score an early goal or two, despite the bluster of the opening flurry on Thursday night we couldn't manage to get the breakthrough goal. Milos Lujic had the best chance, as he ran on clear through on goal, but he blasted his short range shot onto the crossbar. The big striker looked across to the linesman, pleading for the goal which he seemed to believe had crossed the line, but there was nothing doing.

The game then settled down, becoming a classic battle of possession vs counter attack. South tried to be patient with the ball, knocking it around until space was created - Matthew Theodore looked especially dangerous - but our crosses and finishing weren't up to standard. Meanwhile, the visitors were busy trying to bust open our offside trap, and they weren't too far away on a few occasions. Twice it seemed to me that they were denied a run through on goal by unjust offside calls.

Gradually Ballarat started coming out of their shell and moving up the field, as our desire to pass the ball around the back and to Jason Saldaris looked shaky and laden with risk. We also seemed to put the ball into possible turnover situations, combined with Saldaris' tendency to keep possession for too long instead of clearing the ball upfield creating unnecessary tension. Still, most of Ballarat's attacks were restricted to set pieces and shots from outside the box.

The under 20s lost 3-1 to Ballarat. I'm not sure what the
go is with the sign having the text split up in that way.
Photo: Gains.
The visitors were helped by some pedantic if mostly consistent refereeing, as the main official decided to punish what appeared to be otherwise fair physical challenges. Getting towards halftime, it appeared that 0-0 would be the score at the break, and the halftime talk planned around getting our formation back into shape. But then Jamie Reed opened the scoring, after finding himself with plenty of room to unleash a powerful shot across goal, which gave the Ballarat goalkeeper little chance.

The visitors were more attacking in the second half, but I think it's fair to say we still looked the more likely to score, despite periods of miscommunication especially on yhe left hand side. Lujic put the ball into the back of the net, but it was ruled out for an offside, fairly I thought. Eventually Reed made it two for the night, as he managed to somehow beat the offside trap and score a relatively easy goal. I felt that he was miles offside, and didn't even bother getting up in excitement when he found himself clear on goal, but the video will probably make me a look like a goose again.

At 2-0 up, the game wasn't quite dead, but it would require something special for the game to be a contest again. Ballarat substitute Dane Milovanovic almost made that happen, with a long range speculative shot that sailed over Saldaris and hit the bottom of the far post. But in the end, we got the win, kept another clean sheet, and dispatched the only other team apart from ourselves to have a perfect start to the season. All in all, a pretty good night, in front of a decent crowd considering the scheduling and opponent.

'Come on Hellas steal their fucking gold'


'Hungry Jack's, Hungry Jack's, Hungry Jack's'

Image courtesy of the Michael Eagar Fan Club. 
Here's something you don't see everyday
I can't remember which of our players was responsible for this bit of stupidity. During the second half Ballarat had been awarded a free kick near the sideline (or was it a throw in?), with the ball from that bit of action rolling away out of play. The South player let that ball go on its merry way without giving it back - fair enough - but then proceeded to kick one of the spare balls on the halfway line away from the Ballarat player who wanted to get it in order to quickly restart the game. Our man copped a yellow card for his trouble.

Next game
Melbourne Knights at Somers Street. Despite their calamitous finish to last season, big things were expected of the Knights in 2014, especially after they beat reigning champs Northcote in the opening round. But despite a flurry of home games to start the season, some dodgy refereeing and poor finishing have conspired to see them lose three home games on the trot. I'm sure they'll fire up for this game though, relishing the underdog tag which we couldn't possibly claim for ourselves seeing as we're five from five.

Membership goodies and merchandise
The scarf is stretchy, and a lighter shade of blue than we're accustomed to, but otherwise quite nice. The membership 'hard card' is actually flaccid, which seemed to annoy some people. You also get a hat (same as last year) and a sticker. As for merch, no beanies yet - they may get some later in the year - but really, I wouldn't need to buy another one if I didn't keep losing the ones I already have. All round, the membership is pretty good value, not least because all the money goes to the club. Shame the stress balls idea never got up.

If those are not good enough reasons to sign up, here's Jimmy Armstrong to tug at your South Melbourne Hellas heartstrings.

Around the grounds
No venturing out anywhere this week. Thought about Port vs Northcote, but I'd already done that once this season, in their earlier cup meeting. Anyway, the results fell our way a little bit this round, and we find ourselves four points clear at the top of the table - albeit Bentleigh have a game in hand against Ballarat, which won't be played for months yet.

An Easter message from Elias Donoudis
Final thought
Aren't you glad we get to play these guys in the league again in two weeks? Brilliant scheduling that.


  1. you will note that all the match-ups in round 5 are replayed in round 7 for some strange reason.
    Great win by the lads

  2. Yellow was for Matthew Theodore and it was a throw in.

  3. A few observations....

    Does the NPL have racial quotas? Each team (except South?) must have an obligatory black winger?
    By being sponsored by a company that epitomises the word 'franchise', Is Ballarat trying to get into the A league?
    I love the Jimmy Armstrong membership video. Its sort of spiteful! If a Scotsman can support a club for 44 years, what are the rest of us doing?
    Last night I turned on to SEN and they were talking about ..... NPL! They said that the NPL should be about blooding youngsters instead of signing older players.
    I think the SMFCTV guys got the offside calls involving our disallowed goal and our allowed goal wrong. That is, the linesman appeared to get it right!

    Savvas Tzionis

  4. The video says Lujic's shot clearly not crossing the line, his disallowed goal for offside is real close, and that Jamie Reed's second was a lot closer than I had given it credit for.

    Both goals also coming after midfield turnovers.


A few notes on comments.

We've had a lot of fun over the years with my freewheeling comments policy, but all good things must come to an end. Therefore I will no longer be approving comments that contain personal abuse of any sort.

Still, if your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet.

As usual, publication of a comment does not mean endorsement of its content.