The less said about the 7:00PM kickoff the better; about the only good thing about it was getting to see a mediocre game of footy beforehand. There must have been some serious turf preservation issues, as neither the under 20s nor the women's teams played on the Lakeside surface over the course of the weekend. The scoreboard was also on the blink, which lent the whole affair the unmistakable air of serious decay.
Oh, and we started the game in the relegation playoff spot, after being jumped by Hume City on Friday night after they beat Knights 3-2 at Somers Street.
As for the match itself, it started off reasonably well, and ended up in a much worse place. The proviso for most of our season has been that if we take the lead we have a chance, and that if we fall behind we're stuffed. That we were at first in front, then behind, and level again deep into the game showed at least some character. Then came another very special moment from everyone's favourite heel, and whatever positives we could've gotten out of the game - even just the measly point to get us out of the relegation zone - were soon forgotten.
Without necessarily creating too many clear cut chances, we gave a good account of ourselves early on, and did our best to keep Davey van 't Schip in check; well, as much as any team in our situation could be expected to do. As noted, we even took the lead and managed to carry the lead into the break, Ndumba Makeche putting away one of the better crosses we've put in this season. George Howard was having his best game since he joined us, and Oliver Minatel, who continues to be a minor revelation in his new role. But the second half wasn't as crash hot, and we counted off the time until we were due to concede.
I can't understand the subbing off of Makeche, who seemed to be lively and causing at least some problems for the Pascoe Vale defence, as well as of Pep Marafioti even though he was less effective. The Ndumba subbing was particularly strange, as apart from his attacking efforts he also put in a lot of defensive work on the left hand side of the park, sometimes coming up even into our half to offer extra coverage. The reshuffle seemed to unbalance the team, but at the same time it wasn't like we were far and away the better team - with a bit more luck Pascoe Vale could've been in front long before they actually were. But we were still in the game because most of the team were at least putting in a decent effort.
But Paco got there eventually anyhow, with some truly shoddy defending and clearance work, and our usual lapses in concentration. 2-1 down with just over ten to play, I didn't see us making any sort of comeback, but credit to the team they did well enough to get us back level, Leigh Minopoulos setting up Oliver Minatel for the latter's fifth goal of the season. There was at that moment even a hint of optimism among the crowd. That didn't last very long. Sadly in pushing for the win, we gave up even our nominal point in spectacular fashion. Deep in attack on the right, Nick Epifano was dispossessed when he may have copped a stray arm to the face. Perhaps expecting a free kick that never came - and the incident occurring on the referee's blindside made that call less likely to go our way in any event - or perhaps just as likely putting in one of his customary displays of on field petulance, he showed no interest in chasing his opponent back down the field, and the sequence of play ended up with what what turned out to be the winning goal to the visitors.
Epifano was booed by large sections of the crowd before the ball even made it to the halfway line, let alone into our net. And to be clear, he was booed not for losing he ball, but for making no effort whatsoever to chase back. He shushed the crowd and later performed a small fist pump celebrating the visitors' goal. Every time he touched the ball after that he was greeted with anger from the crowd. It being late on a Sunday and preferably wanting to get home before that evening's World Cup coverage started, I left as soon as the final whistle went. It didn't help my overall goal - the transport situation worked out so that I got home at 10:30 - but at least I got to avoid whatever post-match nonsense may have taken place. At this point in time there is no official word on whether Epifano is still at the club. There have been some rumours about him ending up somewhere in the state leagues for the rest of the season - the only place he can go now that the NPL transfer window is closed - but who actually knows? It would be easy to assume that there is no way he'll be allowed to come back, but how many times has that been said before? Before publishing the obituary for his colourful South Melbourne Hellas life, we should make sure it's dead first.
The only positive for the team's fight against relegation is that Bulleen thumped Kingston on yesterday, which while it brought the Lions to within a game (and much worse goal difference) of our position, it at least kept Kingston within touching distance for us rather than let them get away from us completely. It gives us something more than the illusion that survival is possible.
Sasa Kolman resigns as senior coach
Sasa Kolman is officially no longer the South Melbourne senior men's coach. It had been rumoured that Kolman had offered his resignation earlier in the season on one, or perhaps even two occasions, with that offer(s) rejected by the board. It was clear that the board had - for probably noble and ignoble reasons - a lot of faith in Kolman, but the circumstances have proved them wrong.
Kolman has and will cop stick for being the guy who knew beforehand that Taylor was going to get ousted, and that he himself was the one earmarked to replace one of the club's most successful coaches on short notice and to the surprise of pretty much everyone at South Melbourne outside the board. Hamstrung to a degree by the incredibly late move of the board to sack Taylor, as well as recruiting decisions made by the board and/or Taylor before Taylor's sacking, I have some sympathy for Kolman. It is not a sympathy that will be shared by many supporters, understandably so. He will be viewed as disloyal, which would've been more tolerable had the club done better than it has done. He will also be viewed as inept, a youth coach getting in over his head.
Kolman started off the season confidently, a good pre-season result against Guangzhou R&F and a solid first couple of league games giving him the chance to get some clear air. But bad luck (the goalkeeping mess, poor discipline by players, especially regarding concentration and suspensions, and his own two dismissals) and his own backing away from his high pitch, high energy pressing style of game have lead to a poor run of results, where each good result and passable performance is followed by two or three poor ones. His lack of confidence in his initial game plan was later mirrored by his disappearance from the club's media avenues.
It also saw an erratic shuffling of the playing decks from week to week, no two lineups ever quite being the same even when there was the chance to follow up on a winning effort. In defence and in midfield, it was impossible to tell what his preferred structure was once he abandoned his high press. Player positions changed, mostly to no improvement - except for the move of Oliver Minatel to defensive midfield - and morale obviously crashed. Some of the poor morale is on the board as well, obviously, and clearly at least some of the players have little enough respect for Kolman or for the board - leaking posts from their senior squad's private Facebook group is just one sign among many at the collapse in discipline and morale within the playing group.
And Kolman's use of the bench - or just as often, non use - was also inexplicable. I understand that he may have thought that the youth players he had there were not ready to step up, but there were situations where an inexperienced but nevertheless fit youth team player was seen as far inferior to a crippled senior team regular.
Con Tangalakis has been appointed the senior coach for the rest of the season, which was always a likely outcome once he was brought into the fold a few weeks ago. At the moment I'm hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. here's to being proven wrong. Please, prove us all wrong.
Northcote at home on Sunday, in the club's most important game in 14 years. I know I've said something like that across the past several years, but is it any less true this time around? It could be the start of something good, or just the continuation of the very bad thing we already have.
No word on whether Matthew Millar will be back from his trial at Central Coast Mariners, though the word on the street was that it was a two week stint of which last week was the second week. No word yet either on whether Iqi Jawadi will be fit enough to take part in any way this week.
Around the grounds
At McKechnie Reserve in St Albans on Saturday arvo for the state league 2 north-west Greek derby between Westvale and Altona East. Hadn't been to Westvale for a few years now, but times there seem pretty damn tough. Very low attendance, and not much support or even volunteer culture - when you have an elderly bloke with obvious hand tremors making the souvs, it's not a great situation out there. (An OK souv at a good price by the way, which makes me wonder why South can't do something similar). Westvale on field are also in big trouble, just the one win so far this season, in second last place, and almost certain to go down to state 4. Altona East aren't crash hot, but their lower mid-table position means they're safe from relegation even at the midpoint of the season. To Westvale's credit they put in a solid shift throughout this game, and perhaps deserved to lead at the break. Altona East were better in the second half, which doesn't mean they were good, but this game had a bleak hue to it, and the increasingly dark skies - this game finished in near darkness - created a portent that this was going to be hard-fought scoreless draw. Which is exactly what happened.
During the game someone found what appeared to be discarded membership card in Clarendon Corner, and the vibe seemed to be that someone had had enough of everything South Melbourne related, and who could blame them. I was given the card, recognised the surname scrawled in texta on the back, and having contacted the card's owner, I can relay to you dear reader that it was not "discarded", only "lost". So, one very minor saving grace from last week's mess of a match day.