Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hellas get the win - South Hobart 0 South Melbourne 1

Maybe it was due to my crook eye, all puffed up and sore - though I prefer to think that it was because of sense of anticipation of the day ahead - I woke up several times in the middle of the night, and upon waking up, proceeded to head to Spencer Street Station even earlier than I had planned, ending up waiting for Gains outside the Bourke Street Hungry Jack's next to some crazy motherfucker with a Balkan accent, who was going off at some taxi driver as Port Adelaide Power supporters trickled into town for their team's preliminary final.

By the time I got to Tullamarine, those South fans due to depart on earlier flights had gone, but there were still plenty of us waiting for the 9:45 flight. The guy at the screening area asked me to take my beanie off, but otherwise there were no issues clearing that barrier, other than him mistaking us for North Melbourne fans.

The flight itself was rather dull, as cloud cover blocked out most of what was worth looking at, and besides, I was in the middle seat and having to look past a sleeping woman's head to see outside the window. I amused myself with the in-flight magazine, and suffered an OCD moment when I had to ask Gains for a pen so I could complete the unfinished crossword. I can understand maybe missing out on Isaac ASIMOV, because you don't know science fiction or the three laws of robotics. I can even understand missing out on Margaret POMERANZ, because you don't know how to spell her surname. But missing out on the name of AC/DC's second album, when the answer's only three letters long and already has the 'N' in the middle filled in?

Upon landing, it's straight from the airport to the pub around the corner from the Darcy Street ground, a trip made cheaper by the fact that someone had planned ahead and hired a maxi cab, so give that bloke a medal. The Hellas faithful had already commandeered the Cascade Hotel's beer garden, the banners up along the fence, and the chanting in full swing. There was even a chant for my arrival, and one for the super beef schnitzel on the menu. I also got to catch up with former South Hobart players Shae Hickey and Dan Brown, as well as local soccer journo Callan Paske, who thanked me for doing up the Hellas write up for Walter Pless' site because it helped. If only I'd bothered doing as much research on South Hobart, my readers would have known what to look out for.

Now last week I had a go at Brad Norton and our taking of short corners, to which one of our readers, Neil, left a comment on the general uselessness of corners, short or long. While an interesting study, I think it still more or less supports my position from last week, which is not that I believe that we will score from any given corner ipso facto, but that the act of getting the ball into a dangerous position, with the possibility of either scoring or at least regaining possession from a defensive clearance - as opposed to hitting it into the first defender on the edge of the box after a botched short corner - is a better option.

That the article in question says that short corners should be considered because of the greater chance of maintaining possession, is not applicable in the case of South Melbourne as we have come to know and love them, because we have not used short corners as a way of maintaining possession - rather, we have used them as a means of supposedly opening up an angle and/or drawing out defenders towards the ball and away from their own goal area in preparation from an a semi-delayed cross. The problem here is that we either fuck up the initial short pass from the corner, fuck up the pass back to the corner taker, or if we somehow manage not to cock up those two passes, we cock up the cross that's meant to come from that contrived trickery.

On a related matter, when people ask me do people from the club read this blog, here's the proof of the pudding. While waiting at Hobart's airport to go back to Melbourne, our lovable larrikin president Leo Athanasakis pulled me up to have a bit of chat about one particular event of this game, which happened very early on in the piece. Brad Norton had taken an early corner, sent it deep, and saw the South Hobart defence at sixes and sevens trying to deal with it. The subsequent corner, which followed immediately on from the first one, was played short and sunk without a trace. The president felt inclined to point out to me that when that happened, he looked towards my direction to see my reaction of utter disbelief.

Anyway, before the game, the one thing that I was worried most about - apart from Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan up front for South Hobart - was whether we would take the home team seriously, and not rock up thinking that a Hellas win would be a fait accompli. Thankfully we started off like a house on fire, and duly opened the scoring off a Jamie Reed overhead kick.

Note to all South Melbourne players: that goal came from a corner sent deep, which caused all sorts of mayhem. You know, like the first one we put in. What's that line that Dr 'not registered in California - this show is for entertainment, informational or educational purposes only' Phil likes to say? That the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour? And what was it that old drunk WC Fields is alleged to have said? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again? Then quit - no use being a damn fool about it.

Walter Pless' brilliant photo, capturing the moment after Jamied Reed connected with his
 overhead kick, but before it sailed past South Hobart goalkeeper Kane Pierce.

At that point I thought, here we go, but then for whatever reason things started to go a bit pear shaped. South Hobart starting winning more of the ball, but the biggest problem was that the complacency I thought we'd left back at the hotel had turned up, and we started doing things that we pretty much hadn't done all season. We spent so much time knocking the ball around, which would have been OK had we actually done it properly, and were we not playing a pitch with a wicked slant down which made what would have been normal passes into a variation of trick pool, such was the swerve and spin that was on display.

It didn't help that some of our players had all of a sudden discovered their inner Garrincha and tried to dribble through and around everyone. James Musa in particular seemed to become manifest as a reincarnated Steven Topalovic, which is strange because Topa's not dead yet. And while often enough the skills our players were looking to pull off actually managed to be completed, too often it was just looking for trouble.

Should South Hobart have had a penalty? I don't know. Unlike other crucial moments in the game, I haven't gone and looked back on the video. I'm going to stick with 'no', just for the sake of it. Regardless, we managed to go into the break 1-0 up, and came out looking better in the second half. Sure, there were still mistakes being made, and openings there for South Hobart, but if they're going to blaze their shots wildly into the backyards behind the goals, whose fault is that?

Steve Hatzikostas' knee injury was a concern, though apparently he's been cleared of serious damage - whether he'll play in the next game though is doubtful. Had he not gone off, I would have taken Iqi Jawadi off, who unfortunately had an awful game. As it was, the bloke I would have replaced Iqi with, Tyson Holmes, came on and did an OK job.

The critical moment of the second half was when Lujic, having been released into space and having also beaten the offside trap, went to go around Pierce on the edge of the box, only to be clattered into cynically by the South Hobart keeper. Somehow Pierce escaped with only a yellow card for his efforts. Looking at the video, I'm still mot quite sure how he managed to escape a red. Still, we ground out the result despite putting in ordinary performance.

I'd said in my preview for Walter Pless' blog that our vulnerabilities were in our lack of pace at the back, and in our tendency to be a grinding out team suited to league rather than cup or playoff successes. On the latter front, our unconvincing Dockerty Cup wins at Sunshine George Cross and Dandenong Thunder seemed to suggest that when it comes to one off games, as the team likely to go into them as favourite, opposition teams see us as a likely scalp. Certainly, I think South Hobart lifted and perhaps played at a level they perhaps wouldn't be able to sustain over the course of an entire NPL Victoria season, if they were involved in such a thing. All these things are hypotheticals of course, but that's the nature of knockout football, and something we have to deal with.

I can't say much for most of the team, who battled hard, but put together a very disjointed performance, one of our worst this season. Too often our defenders were exposed by the speed of the opposition forwards and our own poor decision making further up the field which gifted them the ball back. Milos Lujic was relatively starved of chances, though he could have done better with those that he had - credit to Kane Pierce for making some good saves. Jamie Reed held the ball up well and caused a lot of problems for his direct opponents.

However the man of the match was our skipper Michael Eagar, who when everyone else was still trying to find their bearings, sorted out the danger time and time again. Added to that, despite whatever looks on goal South Hobart managed to eke out, they barely if ever (Walter Pless counted one) forced Chris Maynard into making a save - a point I made when speaking briefly with South Hobart coach Ken Morton after the match, who rued his side's inability to take their chances.

How can you have a trip to Hobart without a visit to the Hellenic Club? 
Because apparently they were hosting a wedding reception instead. Now that I think about it, we probably should have crashed that party. Instead a few of us ended up back at the pub, and I ended up drinking with Joe Gorman, Australia's second best soccer writer, discussing Leopold Method's upcoming print edition, the Macedonian issue, Ian Syson's romanticism, my bitterness, and how Joe had never picked up on Kimon Taliadoros' South African accent.

Meanwhile those of us South fans at the pub had more or less resigned ourselves to playing either Western Australia's Bayswater or South Australia's MetroStars away. An expensive trip on short notice to Perth, or a cheaper, easier one to Adelaide - and sure I've got a mate in Perth who's offered to put me up should I ever end up on that side of the country, but it's not worth it for a fly in fly out deal. Making matters worse, we'd arguably been dealt the easier part of the deal - go to the weaker opponent, score three or four goals, don't do anything stupid. Well, the stupidity was limited to James Musa's yellow card for a rash challenge, and we managed to win in regular time, but the lone goal meant that in likelihood we'd have to travel.

What could have been had Pierce been sent off? Or had Lujic managed to find the back of the net instead of the cross bar? Bayswater got a man sent off early, and as that game dragged out into extra time, and then penalties, it turned out to be MetroStars, and what's more we'd play them at home. Sometimes things fall into place, even when you try hard to screw it up.

Next game
South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars (what a terrible name) at Lakeside. Date and time to be confirmed. The Transplant Games are apparently on Sunday from 7am to 3pm - does that allow us to have our game afterwards? Would we dare to host the game on a Saturday night? Is Friday night even a possibility?

Former South players Scott Tunbridge and Adam Van Dommele to return to Lakeside. This world just gets a little crazier.

Update
This Sunday at 3:00pm, at Lakeside.


The view from the other side
Some fascinating reading over on Walter's initial summing up of the game, mostly in the comments section. It's all over the shop to be honest, as the occasional Hellas fan chimed in with positive words, surrounded by those locals talking up South Hobart's performance and talking it up, those inexplicably (to my mind) talking us up, and the internal conflict between supporting an interstate interloper over a local team, and whether such brotherhoods as may exist in the case of one Greek Australian club and another can supersede those state loyalties, whether that shouldn't even matter, because South Hobart represent themselves first and their state second, and is the nature of such things, a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The best local view of the game, at least in terms of matching whatever biases may exist in this blog, is from Richard's Rant Blog. Passionate, provocative, but not without praise when he feels it's due - though a lot of that praise seems to be reserved for the supporters who made the trip down for providing a rambunctious atmosphere. Considering the flak South fans cop on occasion for supporting their team a bit more vigorously than a lot of the smaller clubs here in Melbourne, it's a nice bit of respite from the hate - though I suppose it's easier to appreciate what we do when the chants about inbreds were quickly howled down, and instead replaced with 'Scenic ground, some fans'.

Baby take off your dress/Self-diagnosis spectacular
I would have thought that wearing a Shoot Farken t-shirt would have had me singled out immediately, but it was the overly precious metal detectors at Hobart airport that kept pushing me back, rather than whatever stray coins I thought my have been left in my pocket, and thus off came the belt.  It also turns out I probably suffer from airplane sinus headaches or some such affliction, a stabbing, jabbing pain over one side of temple. Makes flying a less than pleasant experience. At least we the Hobart flight left early, and the SkyBus and train connections synched up beautifully.

Final thought
Shaun Kelly buys Nesquik cereal. Make of that what you will.

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