Monday, 6 August 2018

More to do - Green Gully 2 South Melbourne 3

Oliver Minatel's scored a few novelty goals this year; now he's taking novelty corners.
I only visit Green Gully Reserve once a season if I can at all help it, and thus I always have to remember that McIntyre Road becomes Sunshine Avenue at some point, and that I need to keep going straight instead of looking for some irrelevant turnoff. Anyway, I'd love to know the reasoning of whoever it was at Gully who thought it was a good idea to host games on Friday nights. At other clubs, I can understand - they want to have a separate day for seniors and juniors, and they may want to attract a younger adult demographic with the promise of being able to drink.

But Gully has never been a club with a history of great attendances, and on a cold night which threatened rain, this was one of the lower crowds between these two sides at this ground that I can remember. Still, perhaps they got their wish for at least one person to spend more money at the ground, with a couple of South fans venturing into the Gully social club/pokie barn to have some dinner. Didn't know it could take that long to make a pizza, but you learn something new everyday.

Back outside in the real world, the under 20s were finishing up a 1-0 win, and then it was the seniors' turn. Things did not get off to a good start, as Gully waltzed through our right-hand side to open the scoring. Issues with our right were going to be a recurring theme across the first half. I can barely remember Gully getting any penetration down our left during the opening 45. All told, they should've scored one or two more goals, but they didn't, so more good fortune to us.

Even more good fortune for us was Gully apparently having no idea about Marcus Schroen's complete lack of a right foot, because they kept letting him get onto his left for shots and crosses. Eventually that came back to bite them, as Schroen equalised with a ripping left foot strike across goal, after Gully coughed up the ball cheaply in their own half - itself a recurring theme. Their situational awareness was often atrocious; otherwise capable players I assume under instruction to take risks even in areas where the rewards for successfully pulling them off were negligible.

But hey, if other teams want to self-immolate against us, that's fine with me. Besides, we've been far too generous to other teams this year. Playing into the breeze in the second half seemed to work better for us, our crosses and through balls holding up inside the field of play rather than floating out or to close to the Gully goalkeeper. Leigh Minopoulos' cross to Milos Lujic - who was starting in place of Pep Marafioti - was excellent, the only thing better about it being how Lujic got down low to guide it into the net.

Cue the fence run down the hill - oh, did you know Gully got rid of the nonsense mesh behind the goals ends, and that they've also planted trees which in 20-30 years time will provide a sort of actual windbreak, maybe, and they also got a new kickarse scoreboard - and then the panting middle aged huff and puff climb back up the hill and out of breath chanting. We're getting too old for these kinds of antics.

Somewhere in between Milos' goal and Schroen's second, there was one of the great novelty misses by Oliver Minatel, who took a fresh air swing at the ball when a less grandiose gesture would have sufficed. Oh yes, Schroen's second goal, well he made Jason Hicks look foolish by dispossessing him in his own 18 yard box. Poor Hicks, I like him as a player, but somehow he's ended up going from being useless in a relegation scraping team (2017 Melbourne Knights) to useful in a good team (top three 2018 Bentleigh Greens) to being useless again in a relegation scraping team (2018 Green Gully).

Oh, but get this. Apparently you can give the opposition crowd the double bird - twice - ala Harry Noon, and not get a yellow card, but celebrate with your own supporters, and that's worth a yellow. See 'around the grounds' for worse behaviour. Anyway, more problematic is that Brad Norton finally collected his fifth yellow card, so that should be him out for this week's game. It had to come eventually, and it's a miracle it took this long to come, but it's something we're just going to have to deal with. Of course it'd be a little easier if there were obvious options other than putting Kristian Konstantindis at left-back, not the worst solution in the world but not great for the other problems it brings up.

And someone tells me that Iqi Jawadi is off on holiday? And Christos Intzidis has gone back to Greece to see his infant child, which was born while he's been at South and he has not seen yet? And that he may have contract offers in Greece?

But back to this game, because it's not like 3-1 is a safe score for us this season, and that's not even remembering that last year with a 'good team' we were 3-0 and 4-2 up and still cocked it up. No surprise that Gully pulled it back to 3-2, they're not that bad and we're still not very good even if we have improved from our worst efforts. The coach brought on Manny Aguek and Will Orford for fresh legs, and credit to the lads, they did more than just chase and harass. I'll say it again, not sure why more trust couldn't have been put into lads like these earlier in the season when we had nothing on the bench and cripples on the field. If Aguek was the standout of the two when they made their debuts, it was Orford's time to shine against Gully. He showed no fear, taking players on and putting Gully on the back foot, but he also made the right decisions almost every single time in whether to go on the attack or to hold the ball and kill time.

It was a game where we did enough to hold on, my umbrella finally carked it, and we kept our head above water for another week. Things could've been worse. They still could be.

Next game
At home against Kingston on Sunday.

Relegation/survival prognostication, yes, it's still an ongoing concern, and don't try and pretend that it's otherwise
The only positive result from this weekend's action on the survival front was ours: we won, and in doing so we also beat a fellow relegation scrapper. Who would've known that Gully's run of results would become so bad that we'd eventually overtake them and put them closer to the relegation playoff spot? But even as we're in our highest ladder position for months now, we're not really that much closer to safety.

Things looked much worse though early on Friday night though when we were 1-0 down and Kingston were up 2-0 at home to Bentleigh, which lead to me putting forard conspiracies about teams laying down to get us relegated. Eventually things righted themselves enough that Bentleigh came back to draw 4-4. It's a result that could've been worse for us had Kingston been given a pretty obvious penalty late on - even Johnny A thought it was a mistake by the ref not to give it.

Meanwhile Northcote earned a point against Port Melbourne, keeping their slim survival chances alive, but it was a result nevertheless that will make it nearly impossible for them to catch us. Only us losing every game by some margin, and Northcote winning all three of their remaining game could see them overtake us. I'm calling it now - it ain't happening.

The really nasty result was Hume convincingly beating a limp and disinterested Bergers outfit at Olympic Village, so that Hume remain just two points behind us. That means that the two point buffer we had from the playoff spot is now three, plus our superior goal difference.

A month or so ago I put forward some amateur calculations about what it would take to survive, based on a very small sample of years (2014 onwards), and being conservative about how many teams were going to be drawn into the relegation battle. I calculated back then that the highest combined points tally for the bottom was achieved in 2014, with a tally of 65 points (currently at 59 points in 2018, with three/four games to go!), a year which corresponded also with the highest playoff finisher total of 28 points. Right now it looks like anything less than 31 points is very unsafe.

At the time of putting together that loose forecast, my attention was only on Bulleen, Northcote, Hume, Kingston, and ourselves as likely to finish in the bottom three spots. Yet here we are with teams on 28 points - and one on 29 points - who are in a dangerous position. And yes, because this season is so competitive, many of those relegation threatened teams could also end up in the finals with a bit of luck and goof form.

Table excerpt sourced from 
So even as we've shed Bulleen to almost certain relegation, and Northcote to at best probably the playoff spot, other teams have been added into the mix. Green Gully, Dandenong Thunder, and even Melbourne Knights are now all in danger of finding themselves in the relegation playoff match.

As per last time though, we note that a lot the bottom sides are due to play each other over the coming weeks.
  • Round 24: Northcote vs Bulleen, South Melbourne vs Kingston
  • Round 25, Hume vs Green Gully, Thunder vs Northcote, Bulleen vs Knights
  • Round 26, Green Gully vs Kingston, Knights vs Thunder
All we know is that the end of the home and away season is going to be chaotic, and that any finals dreaming needs to be put aside until we secure our NPL status for 2019.

Around the grounds
Hard rubbish collection
A rare Sunday afternoon with no competing commitments, so I decided to make my way down to Ralph Reserve for the first time this year. The walk to the ground coincided with the local council's annual hard rubbish collection. Thus the deserted streets of Sunshine West resembled the neatly ordered ruins of a post-apocalyptic society that seemed to collect, more than anything else, reasonably modern furniture that still seemed fit for use. At least we're getting to the end of hard rubbish day meaning nature strips full of cathode ray tube televisions. At the ground, I watched the reserves game a 4-4 shootout. I took my seat in the stand, next to the bloke on Dodgy Asian Betting Guy duties. Soon, too, some strange fellows took a seat near us, from what I could gather some sort of acquaintances of Iqi Jawadi and Nick Epifano. They discussed in vague terms the kinds of money players get at this and other levels of the game, and assorted nonsense. Suburbs, who were in deep relegation trouble, had the aid of the significant breeze blowing their way, and scored early on. They looked better than their lowly position, but these things never last. North Sunshine, with a slim and fading chance at a championship and possible promotion, equalised thanks to a keeper error.

I moved to the other side in the second half. Going into the breeze I didn't give Suburbs much of a chance, but they started off well and looked good for 15 minutes or so. But they got tired, had only one sub left after making two in the first half, and gradually North Sunshine's bigger enemy became the clock and not the home side. Oh, and they'd say the officials too, and I know everyone gets mad at refs sometimes, but coaches going out of their way and out of your technical area repeatedly to abuse and swear at the officials? If FFV are serious about clamping down on referee abuse, they could do worse than look at a repeat offender like North Sunshine. Anyway, first minute of injury time, the ball falls kindly to Epifano who slots it for the winner.

Final thought
Always wonderful to go a ground who play music over the PA system that's just as bad as that played at Lakeside.

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