Things are marching on to an inevitable and joyous end point. That's a good thing. Another week closer to the end of this abortion of a season. At least now there's ice-cream involved. I mean, apart from diabetics, the nutritionally hyper-conscious, and vegans, who doesn't like ice-cream? Still, the usual frothing madness of South fans, combined with this woeful run of form and people on a late afternoon sugar high may make things worse rather than better. But that could provide it's own entertainment.
Everyone got tentatively excited when Milos Lujic put us in front, because we were looking good, at least as good as the opposition were. Then he got sent off for a very bad tackle, and we waited for the inevitable. And the inevitable did come, but not before some of those in the stand who had not properly seen the tackle decided to go off full-bore at the referee for the perceived injustice.
Still, even if the officials got that decision spot on, there were other like the missed penalty call when we were 1-0 up, and a brutal foul on the outer side, which only served to make everyone - those South fans who thought Lujic shouldn't have been sent off, those who thought he should've, and those with short attention spans who were distracted by something or other - even madder.
Now I understand that referees have to make decisions in real time, and that more often than not they're in the best position to make a decision as opposed to someone fifty metres away. Sometimes though their decisions or lack of decisions remain perplexing to me. These things happen. On the other hand, I wonder about the preparation referees make for relatively high profile contests like this. I'm not suggesting that the refs will go back and watch tape, nor that they will prepare themselves in such a way as to pre-empt what will happen on the day, but I would've thought that there would be an awareness of how fixtures between certain sides are likely to go.
In this case I'm talking about the tendency of South vs Bentleigh games to get heated, to have a lot of niggle, and for things to get out of hand quickly with players and coaches trying to stir things up and undermine the authority of officials. This isn't just a whinge because we're bad at it and Bentleigh are good at it, although it's partly that. It's also about referees laying down the law early enough that the game is won and lost on its sporting merits and not because of other nonsense. But that's just me being precious and yearning for a return to the days of the two captains refereeing the game in the spirit of gentlemanly conduct.
But back to the inevitable. Having gone a man down, we still created two or three golden chances, all of which seemed to fall to Matthew Millar, the hardest working man in NPL Victoria show business. His enthusiasm, his strength, and his gut running are awesome, but his decision making lets him down far too often. Of course, like we always say about the players in this league, if they were better than they are, they wouldn't be playing here.
The effort to try and pinch a second goal, and then to prevent the equaliser eventually took its toll, and Bentleigh equalised. The reshuffle and substitutions seemed to be OK at first, but they had the net effect of leaving Brad Norton isolated on the left against a Greens opponent with a lot of space to defend and not much help. That lead to a cross from his side and a back post goal. Only some desperate defending prevented Bentleigh getting a second goal and the win, which by the standards of our season so far, would ordinarily be a good result.
I mean, here's a team against which we have a very poor recent record, which itself had a perfect record up to that point, and we matched them and perhaps outplayed them for large chunks of the game even being a man down for half of it. But all we get is a point, which along with our Dandenong Thunder derived goal difference, is what's keeping us out of the relegation playoff spot. And now we don't have our one out-and-out striker for at least a couple of weeks, one is hesitant to call this an opportunity to explore new structural and personnel horizons.
The member experience
There were some complaints about the organisation of membership payment and collection. It happens. My experience was fine, because I paid for my membership ages ago, got to the ground stupid early, but for those who couldn't do that it would've sucked if things didn't go so smoothly. Merchandise was ready though, and though I'm opposed to Kappa on moral grounds, it's nice that people were able to get their fill of new gear. No pompom beanies though.
The dining experience has had some changes, for better and worse. I'd been to the NPLW game the week before, where there was an understandably limited menu of chips, calamari and chips, and fish 'n chips. On Sunday it was again a limited menu, with chips, souvlaki, and burgers. I had the souv and... it was passable. It was filling, but bland. I hope that there will be improvement on this front.
There was also no table service, with the system now being needing to remember the number on your order and pay attention to when they call it out. On the other hand, those who complained last year about the bar serving exclusively craft beers will be glad to see that the club has moved to CUB's range.
It seems as if Keegan Coulter's days as stand-in first-choice goalkeeper are close to an end. It's been suggested that ex-A-League goalkeeper Jerrad Tyson has signed up with us. Depending on who you ask, Tyson was either blocked from playing with us last week because of the nefarious scheming of rival clubs, or because we got the paperwork in too late for FFV to process things.
Coulter's shot stopping has been good, but in the air he's become increasingly suspect. Good shot stopping keepers being a dime a dozen in Victoria, it looks like someone with influence has finally bitten the bullet and decided to reinforce this position. And while there's a solid and perennial argument that that there's another ten players the ball has to get past before it gets to the goalkeeper, goalkeepers know what they sign up for.
Meanwhile Nikola Roganovic has signed up with Richmond for a short-term stint.
Rumour mill in overdrive
Reputable and disreputable non-South people alike are talking about some kind of shady Asian takeover of South Melbourne Hellas. For anyone that wants to ask me, I know nothing about any such thing, but am willing to listen to any conspiracy theory, the more crackpot the better. The truth would also be welcome, albeit boring.
Hume City away on Saturday night. Let's hope for a win, and none of the nonsense which accompanied the last visit there.
Football history conference at Lakeside next month
I had heard some murmurs about such a conference being organised. Well now the details are out. To be held at Lakeside on May 15th, the conference's official name is the "PFA Football History Conference", curated this year by Joe Gorman and Roy Hay. The conference program is available, and there are some familiar names on there from an Australian soccer history perspective, but also what looks like deviations into engagement with Asia, and player pathways.
There's good news and bad news in terms of access to the event for ordinary punters. The good news is that registration to attend is free; the bad news is that it's on a Tuesday during the day, which will make it harder for people with 9-5 jobs to attend, though to be fair, I'm not sure when else the event could've been held in order to make it more accessible. In any case, I've registered to attend, and will in all likelihood provide the necessary recap of the event.
Around the grounds
Where were the Port Melbourne Plebs?
Friday night was my first time out to Port Melbourne this season. They were playing Dandenong Thunder, who had recovered a little from their early season issues, and demonstrating that there is hope for the least of us. They got off to a great start here, scoring on five minutes, and to be honest, this is what made the game. Port were obliged to chase the game more whole heartedly a little earlier than they would've liked, and they took control of the game insofar as possession and peppering the goals went. Nothing worked though. Meanwhile Thunder continued to look dangerous on the counter, and went 2-0 and then 3-0 up. My usual practice here is to tweet "stick a fork in this one, it's done", but I didn't do it because the two sides were going up and down the field easily enough and looking likely to score as well. Port did pull a goal back with about a half hour to play, and it seemed like maybe something could happen. But nothing did. Port's performance died in the arse at almost that exact moment. The remaining interest in the game then became whether they would be able to notch up one more corner, so the bloke sitting next to me - who had a multi bet of eight corners in this game and an Avondale win against Oakleigh - could get his win. As hopeless shot after hopeless shot ended up with the Thunder keeper or in Plummer Street, our man got his win when Port earned a meaningless corner in the final seconds of the game.
I think they may have changed the traffic light sequence at the intersection outside the ground. More updates on this in the coming weeks.