Now for South fans, our ego will not allow us to think of a club such as Oakleigh as being a rival in any form, let alone being close to the magnitude of our genuine long-term rivalries, but it's no secret that for many that stoic front is just that. As for Oakleigh, we all know exactly how much stock their players and top brass put in beating us, and it must kill them that they haven't beaten us at Lakeside since 2006. Indeed, I think I can still hear their whinging about the 2015 Dockerty Cup final and the 2016 grand final being played at Lakeside echoing off the hills.
That's not to say the game was of some startling quality either before or after this match's key flashpoint. South had recalled Milos Lujic and Nick Epifano from injury, while David Barca Moreno and Leigh Minopoulos were dropped to the bench. It was a mistake riddled affair from start to finish, which is not to say that it was not entertaining. But from the moment Matthew Millar found himself with just Honos to beat but pushing his shot into the post (and boy did those inflatable apples cop a beating for that miss), the game was about trying to find the worst ways to botch play in the final third.
Oakleigh relied on long range shots, and the occasional floated ball into the box which the South defense had more trouble than usual clearing. Oakleigh's best chance in the first half also came early on, when Giuseppe Marafioti found himself with just Nikola Roganovic to beat, but slammed the ball into the oncoming keeper. For South's part, it looked we were too willing to give Oakleigh time on the ball and the freedom to play through the middle. Meanwhile, we were still able to create counter attack opportunities, but were rarely clean enough or quick enough to make them count - one three-on two-opportunity in particular
Marcus Schroen, who has failed to consistently reach the heights of his barnstorming 2016 finals series so far this season and struggled particularly in this match, was subbed off at half time for Stefan Zinni. It was a good move, with Zinni's pace causing Oakleigh's defense all sorts of problems; though yes, one has to admit that the end product in the final third overall remained less than satisfactory.
The most annoying thing by some margin for most of the match was the refereeing of Perry Mur. Usually one of my favourite officials, he had a bit of a stinker. The worst decision of the lot was early during the second half, when Lujic was released through on goal and was wrestled down by Steve Pantelidis. With Milos having won the battle of strength to get the inside lane on goal, there was no reason for him to suddenly stop when he did. It looked about as clear a foul as you could get, with the only question being whether Pantelidis would get away with only a yellow card. But Mur waved play on to the incredulity of the South crowd and match commentator Teo Pellizzeri.
The game's key incident however occurred midway through the second half. Zinni found himself streaming in on goal with only Honos to beat, but instead of shooting decided to go around the keeper. Honos managed to prevent Zinni going around, in the process collecting a stray boot in the face for his troubles. This led to Honos receiving treatment at first on the ground and eventually off the ground on the sideline. One could understand and forgive some more time than usual allowed for this, given that Honos is a goalkeeper, but the situation rapidly got out of the hand as the delay increased to about eight minutes because of some of the most midrange farcical antics I've seen at a South game in these here state leagues.
|Oakleigh substitute goalkeeper Billy Akritidis waits to come on, as John Honos receives treatment on the sideline.|
Photo: Peter Psarros.
It seemed pretty clear that from the length of time it was taking to see to Honos that he wasn't right and should've been subbed off. Indeed the substitute Oakleigh goalkeeper had not only warmed up but was waiting at the halfway line ready to come on. Then for goodness knows what reason and under goodness knows what authority, Oakleigh's general manager and South Melbourne fan favourite Aki Ionnas came on to the field to sort the situation out. I don't understand under what authority he was there, nor how he was allowed to stay there for as long as he was - among his I'm sure many other glorious attributes, I've never heard of Ionnas having any medical credentials. Did he have a media pass which would give him access to that part of the field? If that's what he used to make it as far onto the field as he did and into the middle of the situation, it would still be highly irregular, because he was not listed as part of the official Oakleigh match day personnel, as you can see below:
|This is an extract from Oakleigh's team sheet yesterday - sourced from the full length original posted on Oakleigh's|
Facebook page -which lists all the officials for the day. Notice that Aki Ionnas' name is conspicuously absent.
His unnecessary interference caused quite a scene. The eight minute delay led at first to annoyance and then anger in the stands. As the South players variously stood around and sat on the ground waiting for the situation to be resolved, some sort of argle-bargle took place in the middle of the grandstand between supporters of the two clubs. From a distance, that situation - apparently mostly between old men - was resolved without it getting completely out of hand, though the Clarendon Corner chant - 'for once it's not us, for once it's not us, Clarendon Corner, for once it's not us' - failed to take off as it should have.
Ionnas' interference has also been described by some people as being negligent with regards to player welfare. Surely it's the doctor's or physio's call first about whether an injured player is healthy enough to safely continue playing; and that the only people with whom that should be discussed are the relevant player, the player's coach, the referee and, at a pinch, the serving team manager - and certainly not some random onlooker with no obvious authority to interfere with the situation and no obvious medical background which would only apply in an emergency situation anyway.
While Honos managed to play on and keep reasonably well for the rest of the game - apart from some fumbles - he later went to hospital for what I assume would've been some emergency plastic surgery in order to fix his busted lip. The whole situation was beyond the ken. Here was a guy who just been accidentally kicked in the face - and who knows if he could've even had some sort of delayed concussion effects - who clearly needed immediate medical attention, and yet by some strange machinations he was compelled by even stranger individuals back out on to the field in order to help his team win a semi-professional game of football in front of a few hundred die-hards.
After all of that, South managed to settle down well enough. Nick Epifano was able to make his way into the box, and was probably unnecessarily knocked over by Oakleigh defender Janiel. I had a bad feeling about the penalty - not its justice, because it was clearly a foul, but rather whether it would be converted - but Lujic put it away nicely.
|Milos Lujic sends his penalty right down the middle as a patched up John Honos dives out of the way. Photo: Peter Psarros.|
At that point it was the 81st minute, but owing the to the extended Honos-related delay, there was still more than enough time for Oakleigh to get the goal back, especially against a side made up mostly of players who'd played on Thursday. The whole thing ended up going to about 98 minutes, which included the closest Oakleigh would come to a goal. A corner was played short - the marking and awareness of which was pretty by the South defense - the eventual cross deflected into the six yard box, over Roganovic, and comically into the Oakleigh player on the goal line hoping to knock the ball in, but who instead sent the ball away from goal.
Neither team was at its best, but I thought for the most part we had the better of things - especially when it mattered most, on either side of the Honos stoppage. The midfield structures improved in the second half, and considering the three games in eight days we'd had to play, we ran out the game about as well as one would have liked - though another midfield sub may have been useful to nullify Oakleigh's late surge, or to take advantage of their need to chase the game.
The win keeps us on top on close to the barest of goal difference margins from Heidelberg, who had a 2-0 win against Green Gully and look to have shaken off their momentary slump. The biggest result over the weekend was Bentleigh's 2-2 draw away to St Albans, but seeing as there are many final race teams with games in hand - often against each other - the jostling won't be clearer for some time I would think. Still, nice to keep top spot for at least one more week.
Irrelevant trivia section
The substitute goalkeeper for Oakleigh was Billy Akritidis, the son of former Channel 31 soccer commentator (and present day NPL security dude) Arthur Akritidis. Arthur Akritidis himself was a goalkeeper in South's youth team back in the 1980s.
|Tiff Eliadis celebrates scoring against NTC yesterday. The SMFC Women |
won 9-2 to maintain their lead at the top of the of the table. Next week the
NPL Women are away to Geelong Galaxy. Photo. Cindy Nitsos
FFA Cup news
Draw is on Thursday. How excitement.
Around the grounds
I think we have enough data now, and it's time to move on
This was an absolute nothing game for an hour, about as pitiful advertisement as you could find not only for the NPL, but for soccer as a sport. There was no penetration, very few chances created, and no excitement. Then Port scored their weekly bomb - not from Andreas Govas, but some other bloke - and everything fell into place just as the scientific modelling said it should. Within four minutes Knights collapsed, again, and were 3-0 down, and the game was as good as done. Sure, Port coughed up a goal thanks to a careless back pass, but they made up for that error with another goal. Knights continue to get closer to the relegation playoff spot, and judging by the quality of their play on Friday, look certain to earn it. Probably best for all concerned that next week I find something else to do rather than go to Somers Street. I see there's a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Astor on Friday. Might do that.