Monday, 4 September 2017

Spent - South Melbourne 2 Bentleigh Greens 2 (South lose 5-3 on penalties)

I took a little longer to get around to this post not because of some sort of despair, or anger, but because I didn't know what to say. I did some reading, I went and watched a couple of other games, and yet still I didn't find myself particularly motivated to write this post. Maybe because I had expected we'd lose this game? Sure we'd beaten them in our last meeting and they were coming off a three day break, but that was different. This time around their three day break was not so bad, because they rested a good portion of their squad.

It's actually kind of funny - after beating North Geelong, Melbourne Knights and Hume on the road, the only team we beat in the league was Bentleigh - in fact we won more games in the FFA Cup in that period than in the league. So basically our form has gone out the window, though who knows why... the usual gimmick for the club, at least under Chris Taylor, is to start solidly, slip up in the middle somewhere, and time our best run for the end of the season. Perhaps because we sucked in the middle, had to claw our way back in the middle, and then had the money issues (which some say still exist...), everything's just come to a point where everyone is mentally and physically drained. Or the team is just not that good this year. It's been able to scrape and fight and pinch wins against the odds in circumstances say we shouldn't have.

Milos Lujic has scored a lot of goals, but in the last month or two it feels like the well has dried up a bit. The early part of the season his tally was initially buffeted by penalties, but his four year bonanza had to stall at some point. And the service and style hasn't helped. Players like Marcus Schroen and Matthew Millar have fallen away. Schroen has the ability to turn a game on its head even when he's having a down day, but those efforts seem to few and far between. Millar is the opposite, a workhorse whose turns to shine on Friday night were left wanting no fewer than four times.

Michael Eagar has ended up on the bench for several weeks, for reasons no one I've spoken to seems to understand... some fans seem to think Eagar is on the way out. Luke Adams and Kristian Konstatinidis have been good, KK more than that when he keeps his feet, but Eagar was one of the players that turned the season around when he returned from injury after our horror start to the season. The other player to contribute to that turnaround was Nick Epifano, but on Friday night he wavered between his best and worst. He was a menace to Bentleigh on the left hand side, but also went missing, regressing to his bouts of low self-esteem. Leigh Minopoulos was handy, but was dragged. He doesn't have the stamina. Jesse Daley came on, and could've done more.

Luke Pavlou came on, a decision which confounded those of us who wanted us to chase the win. Stefan Zinni's pace was never used. Considering that Zinni played a good deal of the pre-season, often as a starter, and considering that we were apparently disappointed to see him leave for his Wanderers stint, upon his return we haven't seen much of him. Where we could've used someone with fresh legs, someone who could exploit a tired opposition and rejuvenate our own spirits, we had old fashioned Chris Taylor caution. Not exactly the kind of thing some of us want to see before a game against the former Palm Beach Sharks.

Both teams ran and then walked themselves into a standstill. We had enough chances to win it in normal time, and didn't. In fact we probably started withdrawing into ourselves around the eighty minute mark, which I can understand if there's going to be a renewed emphasis on attack in extra time, but it didn't happen. At some point during extra time I walked down to the fence. By the penalty shootout I was back in the stand, waiting for us to lose it. We hit most of our penalties well enough, but Brad Norton's was tipped onto the post by the keeper. Every single one of their shots seemed unstoppable, but Nikola Roganovic had also seemingly resigned himself to not saving them. I'm not sure he even got close to any, but that's me and my bad eyes and pall of doom looking at it from a hundred metres away.

The team should not have found itself 2-0 down. It did well to get itself level, and it should've won the game, but nerve and skill failed us at critical moments. Tyson Holmes' goal to open the scoring will be the cause of some angst for our fans for some time. It was probably a handball, it likely shouldn't have stood but the officials didn't and probably couldn't see it clearly. Neither did our players, who are more than happy to call for even non-existent handballs, seem to get up in arms at the decisions. And while Holmes should never have had the chance to even get his head or hand on the ball, neither can we get on our high horse about these things, lest we forget another 2-2 finish and we earned that point.

Though of course that's a logical response to such matters, and there's no imperative for you folk to be held to that standard.

If it feels like I've singled out a lot of people for the loss, that's not the intention. The squad is a good one, it has deficiencies, but so does the rest of the league. The team did well enough to finish second, but under the current nonsense finals system, received little more advantage for doing so than a home game and in this case a short turnaround for our opponent. They should either bring in a fairer finals system - my preference is the McIntyre final five - or ditch the finals entirely. But that's another debate for another team.

It feels odd not having anything to show for this season, having won the championship in two of the past three seasons and a Dockerty Cup in between those. Maybe this will shake things up a bit during the off-season. But of course there's also our...

Next game
Our FFA Cup quarter-final in a few weeks time...

FFA Cup news
Hahahaha, lol, roflcopter etc. We've been drawn against Gold Coast City, the former Palm Beach Sharks.

The match has been scheduled for Wednesday September 20th, 7:30PM at Robina Stadium, Robina - otherwise known as CBUS Stadium, you know, the place we played at the last time we played these guys.

I'd like to have been able to go, but I've got a specialist's appointment the next day. Also, I hate the Gold Coast. But as for the rest of you, start booking your flights and accommodation before the algorithms pick up that people are interested in heading up for the game.

Who knows what form we'll be in by that stage - probably no form, because it will have been 19 days since our last official game, and probably the same in the event that we can't rustle up some local oafs to play against in the mean time.

Gold Coast City will be in much the same position as us, except for playing at home. The prize here is an almost certain lucrative home gate against an A-League opponent, for our boys who lost the corresponding fixture a couple of years ago a measure of redemption, but really it's about the cash. We need the money, we need to show off our magnificent stadium, we need to keep up the delusions of grandeur and relevance.

Speaking of which
I got to the ground before 5:30, but apparently those who got to the ground closer to the 7:30 kickoff faced long queues, with many people not getting into the ground until 15 minutes into the game. Now I assumed that the main gate would be opened, but apparently the club thought it could get away with having two people at the social club entrance. As if charging members for entry wasn't going to piss off enough people! What are the few absolute basics that every club needs to be able to sort out? Cobbling together a senior team; securing a patch of grass to play out a season; rustling up enough cash to pay the refs; having some sort of food service; where necessary, being able to organise orderly entry and exit points if the venue demands such.

Everything else seems optional, and I know that we have particular circumstances which make our situation less than ideal, but one never stops being in awe of how we make things even more difficult for ourselves.

In amid all that...
The WNPL team keeps rolling on. They're on top of the table going into the last round of the home and away season, two points ahead of Calder. We play Geelong at Lakeside on Saturday afternoon. I'd love to have been able to go, but I made a promise to Clifton Hill coach Leigh Tsoumerkas to go see his team at Quarries Park before the season was out, and time just flies when you try and put something like that off.

Apart from matches played as double headers, some of which I watched the entirety of and others I only saw bits and pieces of, I would've liked to have seen more of their games. Most of the women's away games being on the very wrong side of town for me with atrocious public transport connections made things harder, but the one game they played near my place - against Calder in Keilor - I skipped because I went and saw Altona East vs Rosebud in an early round FFA Cup match instead. I guess some part of me knew that it would be the only time I'd watch East win a game all season.

Nevertheless there'll be a finals campaign for the women to get on board with soon, and I look forward to doing so.

'Clog wogs are not real wogs' part 7472902

Look, it was my own fault for looking, and it'll be my fault again when I do the same tomorrow and the day after that
There were some preliminary sketches here about something or other that I was going to post about something I read on Twitter, but I thought better of it and bailed. I might unwisely revisit it someday, if and when I get annoyed by that same theme.

Around the grounds
That's it! If I go, I'm taking you to hell with me!
The fixture was last placed Altona East vs second last placed Westgate. Two mediocre sides who have done their best to undeservedly avoid relegation in the past few seasons but were now this close to going down together. Taking into account possible tribunal decision ramifications and theoretical league reshuffles, the win here for either side would give them a chance to survive at the expense of the other. So of course they drew the game. East went in front twice, Westgate equalised twice. Westgate took a 3-2 lead, but in a classic example of mutually assured orthodox brotherhood destruction, East equalised with about a minute to go. There were great goals and great drama, and in the end a great big nothing result for two very ordinary sides who deserve to go down, and who would maybe even benefit from being relegated, but who may yet survive due to nothing else but arcane post-season machinations.

Strange priorities
Aside from our own involvement, I haven't been a to VPL or NPL Victoria grand final for many years. I missed the 2013 Northcote vs Bentleigh lunchtime at AAMI Park affair. I missed the 2012 Dandy Thunder rocket flare/Oakleigh choke. I missed the 2011 Green Gully win/ Oakleigh Choke. In fact the last time I went to one of these deciders was in 2010, and that was as much to see the Bubbledome as anything. But as for relegation and promotion playoffs, well that's a different story. As long as there isn't an A-League team's youth side playing in the game, I do my best to get along. This year is going to be extra special, because Melbourne Knights are going to be playing sister club Dandenong City in a match to decide whether Knights can legitimately call themselves the most important Croatian club in Melbourne for another year, while simultaneously seeing to it that Dandy City have pissed a lot of cash up the wall. Happy days that this year this fixture will coincide with the grand final day, at Lakeside on Sunday. City won their way to a playoff having finished runner up to Dandy Thunder in NPL 2 East, and proved their league to be stronger than the West side by pretty comfortably beating Moreland Zebras 1-0. You know I didn't even notice that Steven Topalovic was sent off in this game for City? Apart from being a lesson to look up from my phone every so often, it made no difference to the game whatsoever. Dandy City took longer than they should've to open the scoring against a very mediocre opponent, but were rarely under threat themselves. Losing Topa for next week will make things harder. Me, I look forward to an enthralling contest, one which satisfies me so much that I would not feel guilty in skipping the grand final afterwards, like I didn't care about skipping the meaningless Dandy Thunder vs Northcote game held after the City-Zebras match.

Final thought
It feels like the end even though it's not. One day it will be over and perhaps we won't feel that it is.


  1. Hang in there Paul, its been a long season but 1 at best 2 more games to go ..... I don't even dare to dream anymore.

    1. The season has felt like it's gone on forever...

      I'll be fine, lol. I know I'll miss it when it's gone.

  2. This weeks Double header of games at Lakeside sounds good on paper, except for the fact that they have to play the curtain raiser at least an ahour earlier than normal due to the potential of tyhe games going to Extra Time and even penalties.

    It certainly mitigates against me going (although I probably will, at least for the Grand Final).

    I often found it intriguing whenever I attended games involving other teams (be it the AFL or NSL) how the two sets of supporters would go at each other. You then realise that it is not your club versus the rest. Although in the unique circumstance of the Victorian NPL, it is Hellas v the Rest, if for nothing else because we are the only club that gets decent attendances.


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