Sunday, 8 June 2014

Winning run comes to an end - Oakleigh Cannons 3 South Melbourne 0

The winning run had to end somewhere, and it ended here.

A pretty good crowd - don't ask me for a number, because I'm no good with those things - turned up to see the match of the season, with the stakes being South running away with the title, or being brought back towards the chasing pack. Sadly, the latter happened.

South captain Michael Eagar copped a knock at training during the week - probably on the same ankle that saw him miss recent matches against Pascoe Vale and Werribee - so James Musa partnered Andrew Mullett in central defence - other than that, it was the usual South lineup that has done so well up to this point.

We started well enough, in that the game was a bit of a scrap, but we had our fair share of the ball. Andreas Govas hit the post from a long range free kick, and Nate Foster and Goran Zoric were lurking around the box, but we were doing enough to keep them out, while winning enough ball in midfield to keep things interesting at the other end.

The second half, when it mattered, was all Oakleigh. Sure, they may have opened the scoring thanks in part to a deflection, but they had been hovering on the edge of the 18 yard box several times during the match, and eventually they got enough space to make that possession count.

Where Oakleigh's passing was neat, sharp and effective, our midfield presence was often non-existent, and our passing poor. Jamie Reed and Milos Lujic were well blanketed by the Oakleigh defence, but they weren't helped by the appalling delivery - time and again instead of balls to feet or into space, they were fed looping, hit and hope passes which any striker would struggle to make something worthwhile of.

Even our wide play was below par. Excuses about a small, tight and bumpy ground can only go so far because the home side seemed to handle those conditions well enough. The few times we made it behind the Oakleigh defence, we were called back for offside, including when we appeared to have opened the scoring in the first half. It was at the other end of the ground from me, and no one seemed to make too much of a fuss about the decision at the time.

Sliding Doors moment
It was a disgraceful decision. Quite how the relevant official made that call is anyone's guess, because all I can see is Lujic in perfect position, and being held by his opponent for good measure. The pass coming to Lujic isn't even from twenty metres away - it's within the reasonable bounds of the official's line of sight or field of vision.


Now of course these things happen, close calls favour one side over another, but this one seems just so wrong, so unjust, that it really just shatters all your faith in humankind.


The point of all this, is that although we had not been playing particularly well, we had been playing well enough in the first half, and going up a goal to the good could well have changed the game completely, forcing Oakleigh to come out and chase the game or alter their approach.


Back in the actualised world
The second and third goals we conceded were almost carbon copies of each other, as first Foster, and then Zoric, waltzed through our defence. There was little that Jason Saldaris could do for any of the goals.

Leigh Minopoulos added a little bit of spark when he came on, but few of our players could say they beat their direct opponents on the night. Still, I liked the fact that the team fought it out. Sure, we padded out the stats a bit when Oakleigh had taken their foot off the pedal in the last 15 minutes or so, but at least we didn't sulk our way to the finish.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the night was acting captain Brad Norton getting sent off in the fifth minute of injury time, after receiving a second yellow card for a reckless challenge.

One of the resident jokers (and he knows who he is) wanted me to write that we had been out-coached. That may or may not be so, but the reality was that our skill level wasn't up to the task, and we were so often second to the ball - crucial when your opponent uses speed as one of its main tools, and when the refereeing leans towards the more pedantic end of the scale - that coaching, good or bad, had very little do with it.

In a night of few highlights for South supporters, there was at least genuine appreciation for the efforts of the team this far into the season. Throughout the match there was a good vibe among the South fans, even as the winning run came to such a sudden stop.

Clarendon Corner, which often saves up its best performance for this trip, went through much of its chanting canon - the pro-South chants, anti-Oakleigh chants, anti-Aki Ionnas chants, the 'sack the board' chant, the gimmick in joke chants. The performance on the field may have been sub-par, but we've had so little to  complaint on field this year that now wasn't the time to start.

Because at the end of all that, we're still six points ahead of Oakleigh on the table, heading into the last game of the first half of the season - and the first of a stretch of six consecutive home games. One perhaps can't expect a similar stretch of wins to continue into the second half of the season, but I'd rather be where we are at the moment than where the chasing pack is.

Next week
Bottom of the table Goulburn Valley Suns at home to round out the first half of the season - without having played reigning champs Northcote yet mind you. Strange league this NPL. It'll be the first of six consecutive home matches,

Dockerty Cup news
The first part was easy - who would we play, Green Gully or Melbourne Knights? Melbourne Knights won that game 4-1, so then came the bit that was apparently far too difficult to sort out from the get go.

The game was scheduled for this coming Tuesday, which was great for us, but obviously absurd for the Knights, who had to play today, and then on Friday - three games in five odd days? Pretty stupid in anyone's language.

It was also absurd from a 'let's get some people through the gate' angle, because it's on a training night for many, many people.

It kicked off a whole stupid discussion on smfcboard (and soccer forum), about FIFA rules, South running scared of the second last placed team, and which awesome players would Knights bring in after the transfer window opened who weren't cup tied (probably Andrew Barisic).

In the end, somehow, sanity prevailed on all sides, and the game has been moved to take place in a few weeks time.

So, Wednesday June 25th, 7:30PM at Lakeside, it is then. Mark it down in your diaries.

More minor ponderings on the 'rules'
There was a Serbian flag in front of a batch of Oakleigh fans behind the goals. Also a post-match pitch invasion. Makes you think.

Light blue, navy blue, sky blue.
But not royal blue; never royal blue.

Then again
At least they haven't taken our name, yet.

And what happens to...
Heart's identity? You know, the one that was all about the south-eastern suburbs (via Bundoora), bitter NSL fan, Kevin Muscat and colour blue hating, real traditional club, no gimmick, pretty football, YOOF! (arf) demographic? That person is surely going to be annoyed by all this.

The less talked about division in Australian soccer
That between Australian soccer fans that have pay television, and those that don't. It usually manifests itself during the year when the former try to talk to the latter about overseas leagues, but is felt most deeply when it comes to the Socceroos.

And while the situation has improved marginally with SBS showing some games on a one hour delay, for those matches not covered under that agreement - and that still is most of them - they exist on a different plane.

Twice yesterday at Avondale Heights, one chap fell into the trap of asking first myself, and then later another bloke, whether we had watched that morning's Australia vs Croatia friendly, as he had done. Neither of us had, and the reason was the same: no Foxtel.

Leaving aside my indifference to the A-League and overseas football in general, even those with an interest in those things are almost obliged to get pay television to make the most of that experience.

Otherwise, they'll end up in a modified version of the situation that I'm in - knowing of the existence of certain players, of being able to recognise most of the names, but knowing actually very little about what kind of players our national team representatives are, and how they're going week to week - unless you get lucky enough to see a cherry picked snippet on a news broadcast

As long as Fox is paying the bills (not South's bills, obviously, but you get my drift) then situations like this will keep popping up - but at least we're not at the stage of having segregated facilities at Australian soccer venues for Foxtel people and non-Foxtel people. Not yet, anyway.

Blog redesign
Shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic and all that. If you know some decent html and and want to make it look pretty, be my guest. Hell, even a nicer background image would be good.

Teenagers and telephones
Roy Hay's phone going off while being interviewed about his new book on ABC News Breakfast the other day was classic comedy.

Social club news
Anyone heard anything?

Around the grounds
Facilities Audit Fun Time Spectacular!
Got the call some time on Saturday morning, after not having planned to go anywhere or see anyone. So off to Avondale Heights it was, knowing only that they were on top of NPL1 by two games or so - I didn't even know who their opponents were.

Avondale Heights' ground has been much maligned by several people in NPL circles, including me, and I'd never even seen the place. The one time I actually saw Avondale Heights play a game, it was actually at Port Melbourne in one of those playoffs from state 2 to state 1.

Isn't it only right then, that I see for myself what all the fuss is about, and just how much worse it was then say, Brunswick City? They started off well, as they had some bloke manning the car park and collecting entrance money. Now admittedly I didn't pay, because I have an FFV season pass, but as it turned out, what could have been a win for Avondale Heights devolved into a draw when I entered and realised, hey, it's an open park, and there are a billion ways to get into the ground and not even see the bloke in the car park.

What about shelter? Well, Brunswick City has very limited shelter, and so does Avondale Heights. The problem for Avondale Heights is that the shelter that does exist is all behind the goals, in the worst possible viewing position, because you have not one, but two fences blocking your view. You have the perimeter fence of the field, and behind that you also have another, taller fence to stop the ball from getting into the crowd.

The combined effect of these two fences is to block the view of the goal at the other side of the field - which is not a problem if it's not raining, because you can just move to another part of the venue, maybe along the sidelines - but it was raining yesterday, for a good portion of the day, so you then have to bring a brolly or hide under the trees Moreland City's Campbell Reserve style.

At least moving along the wing next to the benches allows you to see the concrete and metal drainage lane which exists probably just over a metre from the sideline, with nice gravelly kind of thing right next to that. You can then move around and see the odd framing device on the goals.

No club, if it's at all possible, would choose to have to play under such conditions, and maybe Avondale Heights have plans and agreements with their local council to get the upgrades necessary to bring the venue up to NPL standard, but it's going to take some serious work.

The game itself, played a on a pretty heavy field, was a bit of a snore fest. Heights deserved their 1-0 win, and the standard was better than the state league 1 (both north/west and south/east) I've seen this year, but there was something missing. Not on the field, because the players from both sides were putting in the requisite effort, but mostly from the small crowd - some sort of edge, of interest. Maybe I'm looking for too many holes to poke at. One last thing on this match - the Heights goalkeeper was punished late in the match for taking longer than the designated six seconds to get rid of the ball, and had an indirect free kick awarded against him - but no yellow card, which I thought was unusual.

Final thought
Can we not have this be the start of our annual mid-season slump? Thanks.

6 comments:

  1. It was disappointing to hear SMFC going down to Oakleigh on Friday night. I say 'hear' but it was really 'read over Twitter' as the @livecastAust wasn't streaming - something about the Oakleigh ground, phone towers etc. The SMFC team has been on an amazing run but have looked a little flat in the last few rounds. The loss will hopefully motivate the boys as will a two week break from the mid-week Dockerty Cup games. Expecting both Seniors and U20s to hit back with big wins this week at home to the Suns.

    Three NPL1 teams in the Dockerty Cup QFs and of course SMFC get the match against the other NPL team! Knights means another derby as such. They are on the improve and climbed out of the relegation zone with their win over Ballarat on the weekend. Still affected by injuries, we'll need to be mindful of them but should win through to the FFA cup. Expect a good and vocal crowd at Lakeside.

    Whats with the star sign background image on the blog. Is there some hidden meaning here?

    Social club... does the removal of the food van at Lakeside two weeks ago count as a step closer?

    Very impressed you made it down to Avondale Heights on the weekend. It's hard to defend the quality of the facilitites and whilst I have no affilitation with the club, I have jumped on the Avondale bandwagon this year. Undefeated at home in three years and promotion through the leagues three years in a row. With this context its easy to see this as a good community club facility. The challenge they face is their rapid success and now in the NPL1 the expectation of the quality of the ground. On field promotion has occurred way faster than ground improvements. The club has put in a tremendous amount of effort getting the facility to where it is now and there is a long way to go. I understand they currently have plans in with Council for the next stage of development. If Avondale maintain their current performance, they'll be NPL next year and South will be making the trek to this very ground!!!

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    1. It's a constellation background rather than star signs - just one of the default backgrounds available in Blogger - I do happen to have an amateur/civilian/non-expert interest in the cosmos though.

      I doubt that the removal of the food van means we're closer to a resolution to the social club issue - probably that the food van people thought they weren't getting enough bang for their buck.

      A lot of people in the past will have been of the opinion that the only thing that should matter is whether a team gets promoted based on field, not anything else. Now that's been turned on it's head somewhat, and I wonder whether there's enough time and money for so many clubs to get their facilities up to scratch. We're at the stage now where clubs are playing in the Victorian second tier who wouldn't have been allowed to just last year.

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  2. Adorably amateur setup at Avondale Heights. Love that the photo shows the upright in front of the goalline.
    When chip-in-ball technology reaches the NPL we could see a football go the way of Linguo when faced with Fat Tony's mobsters.

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    1. Ha! Not enough mentions of Linguo on this blog.

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  3. Wait till a goal is disallowed on that ground from those clips on the post, could decide a title and progression to the top tier of victorian football, (god help us).

    The gravel gutter only metres from the ground has seen my mate cop a nasty nasty gravel burn, as he was obviously trying to make the ground as big as possible (60m touchline, FIFA bare minimum). The fence along the middle of the cricket pitch is removable and the park behind the goals saw your Malvern City-eque onlookers with their kids on bikes and dogs with their leash trailing them.

    The only thing i do give them is that there were 2 change rooms for the seniors and reserves, something that is absent from a lot of NPL1 grounds

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    1. I did notice the remnants of the cricket pitch outside the playing field. The aforementioned Foxtel subscribing chap eventually remembered that he'd actually been at that venue some six or seven years ago for a junior cricket semi-final.

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