For those who haven't been here before: Doyle Street Reserve is the most Spartan of the current day NPL grounds, though at least they've fixed up a few issues this season. They've added what looks like a 100 seat temporary stand, a miniature green tool shed for a media box, and temporary fencing around the ground in order to be able to more effectively charge admission. They've also removed the (puts on A Current Affair voice) death trap goal posts, which were a source of much angst last year.
The surface though was still an unresolved issue. Forget what the typically aloof and sneering South fan might say, but there were others there who were shocked that this was an NPL venue. One was in awe because he had umpired cricket here during the summer, another because (and I could be getting this wildly wrong) he could remember a game against Western Eagles Polonia here just a few short years ago. Sometimes the pace of on-field progress outstrips that of of off-field progress
The bumpy surface on a small field was always likely to prevent an attractive brand of soccer being played. That Avondale had recruited (probably great expense) good ball players and ex-South men Francesco Stella and Massimo Murdocca given that their strengths would be limited on that surface always struck me as odd. In other years, South would struggle to play on these kinds of surface, but a more practical approach in recent years has done wonders.
So while Avondale tried to play the prettier football and aim their shots high at Nikola Roganovic, South was happy to play dinky little balls over the top to the forwards, and with a bit of help from the bumpy service managed to take a 2-0 lead into half time. While we looked good things to take the three points, I had a sense that we could be one piece of bad luck away from having the game open up again.
As it happened, it was Avondale which completely lost its nerve, conceding three goals in almost as many minutes, with a series of mistakes from former South goalkeeper Chris Maynard and his defence gifting easy chances to South. Andy Kecojevic's goal, finishing off a cross from former Avondale man Chris Irwin made it six late on, and provided a welcome addition to the goal difference tally.
With the result long sewn up, attention was being paid to the Northcote - Bentleigh game, then still at 0-0. When the news had come in via the Futbol24 app that Northcote had scored, the 'I-I-Irakli' chants came out from Clarendon Corner, only for the goal to be retracted second later; though it took some time for news to reach the raucous away support, who had made use of the playground at the western end of Doyle Reserve.
It was funny watching and waiting for them to realise that the goal had been a mistake (reminiscent of the final round of the home and away season in 2006 out at Green Gully Reserve, where someone mistook Altona Magic doubling their lead for Heidelberg equalising - I guess you had to be there). The situation became less funny when Bentleigh took the lead moments later, but what can you do?
The game finished when substitute David Stirton was brought down from behind in the box, and Epifano having been subbed off, Lujic slotting it home for his hattrick and the further erasure of one more nagging penalty taking demon. Not that we've played the crème de la crème of opposition in recent weeks, but we sure as hell could have played a lot worse. The team is starting to find its groove again, and at the right time of the season, too.
Next game + the run home
Hume City on Wednesday night at Lakeside. Hume beat Heidelberg 2-0 this afternoon to secure their finals place. Whether that makes them more or less dangerous in the run in to the finals I don't know.
|Jockeying for position. The race for top spot is down to two teams, while Knights and the Bergers will still be looking to finish top two to earn a week off and get home ground advantage.|
Bentleigh are three points ahead of us, but with only one game left, against Oakleigh. Will Oakleigh use this game as a means of tuning up for their FFA Cup fixture against MetroStars, or will they go easy and save themselves any unnecessary grief? Strange things have happened in this fixture in the past. We now have the advantage when it comes to goal difference, and the chance to take top spot if we win both games no matter what Bentleigh does on Sunday. But Bentleigh have the tangible benefit of having won that extra game that we still need to win.
Heidelberg has two games to play, a midweek game against Green Gully, and a home game against the relegated Dandenong Thunder. Gully were eliminated from the finals race due to Hume's win today, but I wouldn't expect them to roll over. Meanwhile Melbourne Knights can't finish top, but they can still finish in second if we can't manage to even squeeze out a draw from our remaining two games, and they win their remaining fixture.
What's really amazing is this is exactly what Steve from Broady said would happen!
Apropos of almost nothing, a paragraph on what 1984 title winning coach Len McKendry thought of soccer supporters and what they knew about the game.
|Excerpt from Paul Wade's autobiography, detailing one of the differences between Jimmy Rooney and Len McKendry.|
Brad Norton has signed on for another two years, but the best bit of the relevant South Melbourne press release was undoubtedly the 'he who shall not be named' shenanigans:
Norton was appointed as Vice Captain in 2013 but captained the side for most of the second half of the season following the exit of South’s captain that year. (italics added by South of the Border)Take that, dude, bloke, guy, whoever happened to be captain in the first half of 2013. Pretty childish if you ask me.
Speaking of exile to barren lands
Jake Barker-Daish has not even been on the bench for the past couple of weeks. Makes you think.
A new book was launched last Tuesday in one of the rooms at the Melbourne Cricket Club, though I forget which one (for the record, I deliberately avoided wearing a collar. Also, the jam tarts were shithouse). Sport in Victoria: A History, edited by Dave Nadel and Graeme Ryan (who is also the publisher) contains 180 odd contributions from 80 odd contributors on many sports played in Victoria, as well as some sporting bodies, venues and events. I have three contributions in this book: men's soccer (written with Ian Syson), women's soccer soccer and a short section on South Melbourne Hellas. It's a bit pricey - close to $80 for the paperback edition, and a bit more for the hardback - so it's the kind of thing that unless you were an obsessive, would best serve perhaps a Fathers Day or Christmas present, or you could perhaps try and get your local library to order in a copy. The book's format is sort of encylopaedic, giving overviews of the different themes, and hopefully prompting further study and exploration for those readers so inclined. The book does have some nice images in it, and does a reasonable job of covering most of what you would expect to be covered in such a tome, though the omission of something like roller derby when rogaining and petanque have been included seems a bit odd - maybe in a second edition?
Things could be worse!
Didn't like Chris Maynard as a goalkeeper? Be thankful I'll never be selected for South.
My excuse is that the sun was in my eyes. If it was good enough for Peter Gavalas...Ball kicked into crowd. @PaulMavroudis tries to catch ball like a man protecting his hat.— Ian Syson (@IanSyson) August 15, 2015