It was not the most awe-inspiring performance, but it doesn't have to be, yet. As usual, quite a healthy attendance from South and non-South people out for this friendly out at Darebin International Sports Centre's synthetic pitches, including my old mate George Katsakis. If I'd known there'd have been an under 20s game beforehand, I would've arrived earlier than I did.
It was a warm day, our players looking a bit out of sorts effort wise - the calls by coach Tangalakis to press not always being heeded - and players were slipping over on the synthetic surface. Box Hill put in considerable effort in the early stages, and in addition to that they exposed a disturbing lack of speed in our defenders.
We fell 2-0 behind early, took a 3-2 lead early in the second half, and eked out a 4-3 win in the end. Results don't matter now of course, but for some reason you'd still rather be on the right side of the ledger even this early in the season. It was certainly not a full strength line-up on our end - no Schroen, Roganovic, Minopoulos, nor rumoured visa signing Canadian midfielder Ethan Gage. There was a bit of rotation as you'd expect. Will Orford got a bit of a run, as did Manny Aguek.
It looks like they're trying Gerrie Sylaidos as an attacking mid as opposed to his more customary wing position. Counter-attacking will probably be the name of the game in 2019, in part to protect what looks like an iffy defence. Seeing as how we've recruited a swathe of defensive mids, expect them to be utilised extensively in any formation we deploy. I'm thinking the midfield will generally be a good group, not world-beaters, but hard-working nevertheless; but apart from Sylaidos, perhaps lacking in craftsmanship. George Howard has apparently injured himself again, but you wonder where he'd fit in to this team in any case.
In attack, there are a plethora of options, but there'll always be doubts about the pedigree of said options until such time as they prove otherwise. I'm a fan of both Pep and Giordano Marafioti, but Pep is perhaps too one sided and too cute with his finishing. His brother is more clinical and much more genuinely an out and out striker, and I foresee good things there. If nothing else, we should at least be less predictable going forward.
Not that predictability was a huge issue when Milos Lujic was banging in 20 goals a year, but that's over now, and it's time to turn over a new leaf. It'd be great to have someone score 20 goals this year, but I'd be happy if two of our forwards could score ten each, and the mids chip in with their fair share. Still, we could end up regretting not being more decisive in the early part of the off-season and recruiting Peter Skapetis.
From here on in, we're probably looking at friendlies every Wednesday and Saturday, but whether that's true or not, and just how accessible they'll "officially" be to the general South supporter base, I wouldn't have the foggiest.
2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 13/01/2019
Defensive midfielder Kostas Stratomitros has joined from Oakleigh. I think the rumoured English striker is gone, but who knows. The signing of Canadian midfielder Ethan Gage is likely to be announced soon. Tim Mala has "retired", but may end up turning out for North Sunshine.
- Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles)
- Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019)
- Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
- Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne)
- Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019)
- Kostas Stratomitros (Oakleigh Cannons)
- Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote)
- Luke Adams
- Manny Aguek
- Alistair Bray
- Ben Djiba
- George Howard
- Amir Jashari
- Giordano Marafioti
- Giuseppe Marafioti
- Jake Marshall
- Andrew Mesorouni
- Leigh Minopoulos
- Will Orford
- Nikola Roganovic
- Marcus Schroen
- Visa player no. 1 (English striker)
- Visa player no. 2 (Canadian midfielder Ethan Gage)
- Alastair Bray
- Rory Brian (Preston)
- Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh)
- Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?)
- Christos Intzidis (who knows)
- Milos Lujic (Oakleigh)
- Oliver Minatel (who knows)
- Ndumba Makeche (Penang FA?)
- Tim Mala (retired)
- Iqi Jawadi
- Giorgi Zarbos