South's loss yesterday was not for lack of effort. The team had a plan, stuck to it well enough for large parts of the game, but ultimately deserved to lose the contest to superior opposition. That we conceded the decisive goal from another set piece was disappointing, but in truth it could have also come from several other chances which Nikola Roganovic had to stop.
We're at a level of personnel issues that we haven't had to deal with since Chris Taylor took over two seasons ago. Losing Andy Brennan hurt, not because he was quick, but because he was quick, strong and decisive. You never died wondering with him, and unfortunately neither Andy Bevin nor Chris Irwin have demonstrated those qualities as of yet. Irwin at least is a project player, someone for the future, but you have to wonder about the decision to sign Bevin going on his performances for the club thus far.
The recent effects of Brennan's absence were masked somewhat by the good form of Nick Epifano, but without him for at least who knows how many more games while he trials overseas, we've quite clearly had both our wings clipped, and not being a side with big midfielders to storm through the middle, we looked stumped going forward. That quip last week about Lujic not scoring since Brennan left? That was half a joke last week, because he still had plenty of chances - yesterday the supply slowed down to a trickle.
Watching Lujic toiling fruitlessly up front without any support or service took me back to the Trent Rixon days. Yesterday's tactics of containment - which worked for the first half at least - provided little option going up front. The calls for Leigh Minopoulos to be given a starting role next to Lujic sound about as good idea as any at the moment, hell, even the calls for under 20s player Nashir Hussainy to get a go.
Down back the problems continue to mount. Luke Adams missed yesterday's match because of New Zealand Olympic qualifying duty in Papua New Guinea, and could miss as many as six weeks while the team goes on a long tour. Even the qualifying tournament won't be no picnic - New Zealand are scheduled to play five games in ten days in the middle of the day. Brad Norton's red card will see him miss next game, and there is talk that Tim Mala may also miss this week's Heidelberg game having picked up too many yellow cards.
The personnel problems wouldn't be so bad if we were not coming up into a very crowded part of the calendar - there are going to be midweek league games, FFA Cup games and Dockerty Cup matches. Hard decisions will need to be made about which of these take priority. Do we give up the ghost on catching Bentleigh, and just let the NPL national finals place go? Seeing as we've secured a finals spot, and that there's no double chance on offer in the finals, do we focus on the Dockerty Cup? Will we have a competitive team for an FFA Cup fixture?
It's almost absurd to be feeling this morosely about the team this season considering we've only lost twice this season and are just four points behind top spot. There are some positives to think about amid the doom and gloom. David Stirton played about an hour in the 20s yesterday, and Stephen Hatzikostas came on in the last ten minutes of the senior game. How much those appearances were out of necessity rather than desire I don't know. This is going to be a very trying second half of the season for all concerned.
Our resident counter says 'too hard to count, but probably close to 1,000.
Another tough game, this time against Heidelberg.
Dockerty Cup news
Speaking of Heidelberg, we've drawn them as our semi-final opponents in the Dockerty Cup. The game will be played at a neutral venue on either July 15th or 16th.
NPL public transport guide updates
Not that we'll be heading out to Galvin Park again this year, but opening of the Regional Rail Link has meant that quite a few timetables have been updated. Thanks to PTV's Peter Parker for letting me know about the new ways to get to Galvin Park using public transport.
While we're on the topic of public transport
These 5:00PM Sunday kickoffs are a nightmare for me in terms of getting home after the game. The final whistle sees me inevitably miss the first tram, so there's 15 minutes waiting at the tram stop, meaning I miss the 7:27 train to Sunshine and have to wait until the 7:57... getting home past 8:20. But you know, I'm sure someone important thinks 5:00PM is a great idea.
Speaking of great ideas
I know I've said this before, but I would like to be in charge of the pre-game music at Lakeside for one week. I could play tasteful selections in any number of genres: post-punk, alternative, shoegaze, dream pop, film and video game soundtracks, IDM, doom jazz, even chip tune. Just no more of that damn dance music. I could even choose some vaporwave. You have my details. Call me.
Around the grounds
On Saturday at Sunbury, two separate people asked me the same question: where's Jim? And my answer was, how the fuck would I know? OK, maybe more polite than that. I am usually a very calm and very polite individual. Anyway, if you're struggling to find any sort of emotional investment in a suburban soccer match - perhaps because you have no one to distract you with idle chatter, or because however well meaning the teams are they aren't creating many chances, or because there are only so many five dollar hamburgers and $6.10 plastic cups of cider (the latter from the social club!) you can stuff into your gob - the best thing to do is stand next to one of the benches and listen in to the chatter. This is even better if the home team and visitors benches are a) close together and b) made up of people who know each other. Thus you can take in the banter between the two sides, especially from the coaches, as they try to motivate, psychologise, intimidate and plant ideas into the referee's head from one of the worst spots to try and pull the strings. There's that many ideas and instructions being thrown out that perhaps the players on the opposite side of the field are the lucky ones, just being able to play - unless of course you play in the reserves and you have some parent yelling out constant instructions as if he were a ten year old playing FIFA on the XBOX or Playstation. As for the game, Altona East took the lead when an in-swinging corner went straight in. Sunbury equalised, but East won the game when soon after that one of their boys headed home at the back post from a corner. It took me ages to get home, because the people in charge of integrating buses and trains for Sunbury clearly have no idea what they're doing.
You remember how back when Lakeside reopened after the redevelopment, as part of their membership packages South had an option for a social club membership? Because you know, it was coming soon? And that suckers like me bought one? Good times.