South meanwhile are now into the quarter finals of the Dockerty Cup, and just one win away from qualification for the FFA Cup. Including both league and cup matches, it was South's 13th consecutive win in 2014, a remarkable run in anyone's language.
South made a few changes from the line-up which took on Werribee City on Sunday in the league. Nick Epifano came back into the starting line up replacing Leigh Minopoulos, Michael Eagar slotted back into the side replacing James Musa who is on All Whites duty, and Slaven Vranesevic came in for the unavailable Matthew Theodore.
For their part, I believe Dandenong Thunder may have also had one or two out, but still managed to field a good young team with a few familiar ex-South faces - midfielder Alan Kearney, goalkeeper Zaim Zeneli and defender Ramazan Tavsancioglu - which has been providing real Jekyll and Hyde performances throughout 2014.
Unfortunately for us, we got the fired up Dandenong Thunder who, already off the league leaders' pace, had pretty much only this to play for for the rest of the season - never mind the return of several ex-Thunder personnel to George Andrews Reserves for the first time since they moved across to South last year.
Apart from an early series of five consecutive corners, and a Jamie Reed shot which was blasted high and wide from outside the box - and he had so much more time than he realised - it was pretty much all Dandenong in the first half.
They should have scored within the first minute or so when we coughed up the ball cheaply in defence, but Saldaris made the first of a series of three or four killer saves in this match - including one where he was bundled into the net, but thankfully awarded the foul, unlike Gavalas last year in the preliminary final against Northcote.
My obviously educated opinion is that we were also out-coached, or at the very least played into Dandy's hands. While George Andrews Reserve is a bigger ground than many in the NPL, quite why we sat so deep for almost the entire match baffled me.
So many of our goals this season have been scored from getting the opposition to cough up possession in midfield, and then playing the ball either to Reed or Milos Lujic up front. Yet Lujic was stranded up front by himself, as Reed was played closer to midfield, and the lack of pressure on the Thunder back four allowed them to play the ball of the back with ease. Thunder were thus able to repeatedly make their way up both wings without the threat of turning the ball over.
Meanwhile, when we did get the ball and the chance to go forward, we often resorted to bombing it long to Lujic, or steadfast refused to play the ball wide to a loose man - on at least a couple of occasions Iqi Jawadi, who otherwise toiled hard in midfield, refused to pass it to Vranesevic, preferring to take on the Thunder defence himself.
While we improved in the second half, it still took us a whole 80 minutes to get even a timid shot on target. Leigh Minopoulos certainly added some spark - and class - when he came on for Reed (and playing up front as opposed to out wide, probably for the first time since he started against the Georgies in the cup), taking advantage of the tiring Thunder.
Nevertheless, we couldn't manage to get the win in normal time, as even as we worked ourselves into better positions and started winning the ball in 50/50s in the middle of the park, our crossing and decision making were invariably poor.
Extra time at least brought the temporary relief that if we conceded early we would have time (compared to injury time after the regulation 90) of being able to pull a goal back, but it was us that started the brighter, with substitute Boaheme finding space inside the box. His shot at the near post was well saved by Zeneli, resulting in a corner - and from said corner, Thunder's inability to clear their lines presented Boaheme with the opportunity to make up for that chance when he managed to get the ball over the line.
South then had a good patch of play, its best of the match as it probably shaded the extra time period. However Thunder wouldn't go away, throwing everything at the South defence including keeper Zeneli from a corner, which almost paid dividends. In the end, Thunder's failure to score after having so many chances came back to haunt them - and as we all know, whatever stats you may have won on the night, there's only one that counts in the end.
It was the first time we had been held scoreless (in normal time) all season, and added to a recent series of underwhelming performances. While the defence is holding up, Saldaris' kicking is becoming a real worry. Reed's form also seems to have dropped off in the last few weeks, if not his endeavour, though I wish he would stop playing for free kicks so much.
Still, once again we got the chocolates, as we head into the next phase of a triumvirate of tough matches: we host Thunder on Sunday, followed by perhaps the most anticipated match of the season thus far, a trip to Oakleigh on Friday week. It's been an amazing run so far
Our next opponent in the cup has not been decided yet, with several Dockerty Cup games to be played next week, but among the winners from last night were Hume City (6-0 over Springvale White Eagles), Northcote (2-1 over Werribee City) and South Springvale (1-0 over Fawkner Blues).
Lastly, thanks to Johnny for giving me and Gains a lift home.
Around the grounds
Whittlesea and North Geelong are both in the second half of the NPL1 ladder with two and three wins respectively. It has been a mixed season so far for both teams with no stand-out performances. Whittlesea are coming off a loss to Richmond last week and Geelong has had a bad run losing their last four straight before making the long drive out to Epping Stadium for tonight’s match.
Ian Syson really needs to download the Futbol24 app.