There is an aspect to which one could compare this South Melbourne side to someone being rehabilitated from a stroke or a serious car accident. You have to re-learn how to do everything that once seemed so natural - how to talk, how to walk, rebuilding muscle memory - and neither doing it nor watching it is going to be an easy experience.
The first half of this game was unpleasant to watch; despite the cold, the rain hadn't even started yet. so it's not like you can blame the onset of mass precipitation for what was happening. Richmond mostly chose to counter attack, being the first team in several weeks to genuinely exploit our offside trap sensibilities. Even Bentleigh in our recent cup embarrassment didn't do as well on that front.
But in the final third of the pitch the visitors were wayward with their passing and wasteful with their finishing. For our part, we had most of the ball, but mostly to little effect in the first half - though our corners did look better and more dangerous than has been the case for some time. There was much annoyance with a lot of the passing around the back and especially the passing back to Nikola Roganovic, but playing devil's advocate for a moment, I think I could see what they were trying to do.
Rather than needlessly hoof the ball forward, or even as part of the symptom of shirking responsibility, Friday night saw the side perhaps trying to adapt to a different mode of getting forward. Instead of relying solely or mostly on getting the ball onto the wings, we decided to find a way to play through the middle as well - so there was a lot of scrappy play, and lots of strays passes from us as we sought to take some more risks in midfield.
Part of that can be put down to Andy Kecojevic, who started a second successive game, who rather than play like his more defensively minded kin such as Iqi Jawadi (who was back on the bench this week, but saw no game time), Steve Hatzikostas (who worked hard in conditions which played to his strengths) or Matthew Foschini, who was at centre-back anyway (with Michael Eagar not being recalled after serving his one match suspension), was busy trying to move the ball forward and as quickly as possible.
Perhaps this is because Andy's a genuine attacking midfielder, or because he's too young to have been brow beaten into playing a dour sort of game. I sensed that in part because of the presence of Kecojevic, especially in the second half when we started cutting through all three channels, left, right and middle, we looked almost versatile and unpredictable.
Some aren't sold on his alleged potential, and that's understandable from the point of view that he is only 18 and has played very little senior football, despite what the stats may say. But from the point of view of attitude the team seemed to be, at least in the second half, looking to do something with every possession of the ball. That doesn't mean it was all pretty or fluid, but it was at least fun to watch.
Having the right attitude isn't everything in soccer, but it's a bloody good place to start. The first goal in particular was one of the worst goals I think I have ever seen, players falling all over the place or just standing around, and eventually someone (Milos Lujic) doing what had to be done in the absence of a referee's whistle putting an end to the madness and putting the ball into the back of the net.
Conceding a goal soon after to substitute Nick Niagoran (has any ex-South junior hurt us so much in such a short space of time?) could have seen the team implode, but Kecojevic was on hand to put us back ahead, and the flip pass into hectares of space by the People's Champ saw Spanish import Manolo (again coming off the bench) finish off a one on one to give us a 3-1 lead with you would have thought not enough time remaining for a repeat of the heinous implosion that occurred last time we were leading Richmond 3-1.
Except that Richmond gave it a fair old shake despite the limited time on offer, reducing the deficit back to one when a South defender failed to either dispossess or bring down Niagoran who passed across the face of goal for an easy finish by a teammate. After that, we relied on Roganovic making a double save to get all three points, but rather than there being a feeling of angst mixed with relief akin to that which followed the Bulleen game, I think what we had here was relief mixed with a sort of happiness - no one thought it was a great performance, but people could at least appreciate (I hope) the endeavour and the intent of the side.
And the scoreline does flatter Richmond, too. They had their moments at the beginning and at the end of the match, but the game was played mostly on our terms, especially in the second half when we launched several promising attacks and forced the Richmond keeper into action on several occasions - and one notable instance of inaction, when he let a low cross or shot towards the near post from Brad Norton hit the post and squirt across the six yard box, just out of reach of the equally surprised South players in the vicinity.
In the end, my biggest concern was not some galoot chanting 'we're gonna lose 6-3' when we were 3-1 up, but whether Amadu Koroma coming on as a substitute was going to cost us three points, because his name hadn't been on the team sheet provided to the general public before the game. Not for the first time this season, there was a late change to the line up, and another team sheet filled out. At least for consistency's sake, Chris Irwin's three minute stint at the end of the game was as legit as they come.
Hume on Friday night (really!), as we begin a stretch of three games against teams bound for the finals. Should be fun.
Rolling out the green carpet
For some inexplicable reason, the path out of the players' race on Friday was not 'as the crow flies' but instead one which diverged into two paths which ended up taking the two teams the long way around to their benches. I have not been able to independently come up with a reason for this change in proceeding, and for a moment I was worried that this whole enterprise may lead to an A-League style 'face-off', a phenomenon I've heard much about, but whose horror I have thankfully not seen. Just our luck that the players ending up in the usual line and handshake formation. Further adding to the perceived pointlessness of the whole thing was the substitutes and assorted others disregarding the existence of the separate paths at halftime, and everyone walking through the players' race at the end of the game without making any unnecessary detours. If anyone can fill us in as to what was going on here, we'd be glad to know.
So apparently we tried to have this fixture moved to Sunday (for who knows what reason, but perhaps in the hope that more than 150 people would turn up), and Richmond said 'no'. What's good about this is that some folk from our side are blaming Richmond for this outcome, as if it was Richmond's fault that the game was scheduled for a Friday night in the middle of winter in the first place. Worth remembering that Greeks did invent hubris after all.
Social club news
So the latest tidbit on this saga which I have managed to source from a third or fourth hand source is that apparently there's a power box in place, which I am reliably informed is necessary for the operation of tools in the event that someone may want to do some work on the social club.
Everyone thinks they have immaculate (and of course everyone is wrong)
Seems like the club has dispensed with the player playlists for their pre-game and half time stadium music, NOT THAT ANYONE COULD REALLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. As the South players walked out in the second half to the strains of 'Say My Name' by Destiny's Child, one felt that surely we deserved better than this, and surely we could do better.
[there was also, for me, the not altogether pleasant sense of being taken back to 1999 and Year 10 when the song first came out, and the girls in my tech studies class (I vaguely remember it was something to do with electronics; the boys mostly made balls of solder to throw at each other, or watched test cricket on a portable TV) would play the song off a cassette tape, before that medium fell out of use until it was revitalised by hipsters so that the only people who could listen to their post-Appalachian funk metal would be third world cab drivers driving old Datsuns through monsoonal traffic jams, or people that had bought an endless supply of Sony Walkmans from op shops. I'd add myself as a third possible market, but the cassette player in my 1989 Toyota Camry doesn't work.]
Of course, when it comes to playing better music over the speakers (if indeed we must have music at all) I have offered my services on many occasions, even offering the club money for the privilege via such things as making it an auctionable item at the jersey night or making it a prize in a raffle. Of course, I have had minimal success on this front, managing to get Kitchens of Distinction's 'When In Heaven' played through what were then malfunctioning speakers last year, but otherwise we have had to put up with what the current master of ceremonies decides to play. Someone in Clarendon Corner did suggest we get a petition going...
A persistent pounding sensation
People are really getting fed up with the constant drumming during matches by Harry the Drummer. Let's see where this ends up.
Victory incident tribunal news...
The only news is that there is no news. Maybe tomorrow.
Update - decision has been released. Six point deduction, and six point suspended sentence. South of the Border will discuss the outcome in more detail in our next match report.
Around the grounds
Hard times, and they're only getting harder
So I ventured out to the right side of Paisley Park yesterday to witness the match between Altona East and Western Suburbs. East, as readers will know, are struggling, but Suburbs aren't doing much better. The first half of this game was more or less a complete write-off. The second half was better, and East had a number of good chances to open the scoring, but the visitors scored on a counter attack and withstood whatever the home side could offer. So, relegation looks likely for East, unless something drastic happens. Whether the return of Lester Abalos and the signing of former of South youth player Anthony Giannopoulos is part of that drastic thing, well, none of us will know for sure until the season is played out.
Why do we persist with a single striker many fans ask. Perhaps South Melbourne is merely employing a variation of the 'No Homers' club.