Monday, 8 April 2019

33% - Melbourne Knights 0 South Melbourne 1

There are members of the South Melbourne family who view '30' as the magic number this year. It's the magic number because, barring some bizarre turn of events where teams at the bottom end of the table collect an inordinate amount of points, even greater than last season - 30 points will be enough to see you survive. We're now a third of the way there, having endured a coaching change, erratic form, an unfortunate suspension, and an absence of home games, with two thirds of the season to go.

Er, not quite. Photo: Luke Radziminski
For some reason all during the week there was this sense of anticipation about this game. Granted it was mostly coming from Knights fans, who were promoting the bejesus out of the game (as is their right), and getting ready to bask in the glory of victory, but still, it all felt a bit confected to me. That's probably due to us sucking and them not sucking, and expecting to get beaten, even though I personally haven't thought that highly of Knights' performances this season despite their better than expected results.

There was also plenty of inane banter in the lead-up, which I had nothing to do with because I carry myself with the utmost internet decorum , but you people... boy, you just can't resist. How dare you even remotely question the Knights' poster campaign? Aren't you scared that the singing man on the Knight Train radio show or one of his acolytes is going to come after you and teach you Greek words?

Anyway, the (apparent) great tragedy about this rivalry - apart from these two once mighty clubs being stuck in the state leagues - is that for the last 25 odd years there have been few moments when both clubs have been at the top of their leagues at the same time. There have been blips - like the 2013 semi-final - but even that was dependent on us making an outrageous run in the second-half of the season and benefiting from the Southern Stars to even make the finals.

So after several years of us being quite good, and Knights being garbage, this year it is the Knights who have been good and South who has been middling. A large crowd was in attendance, but the atmosphere was muted. There was some some chanting from Knights fans, but they were close to inaudible in the second half. The flatness of the crowd was matched by a flatness to the game as well. Knights had the better of it, especially towards the end of the first half - and only heroics by Nikola Roganovic (in league game 100 for us), and a clearance off the line keeping it level.

The second half from us was better and Knights seemed to lose the ability to do some of their more intricate passing. At any rate, their falling behind played into the hands of a team that will prefer sitting back and hitting on the counter until such time as we get a proper striker and attacking midfield set-up.

This game was decided by a goal to us, and a very fine and enjoyable and comical goal it was too. A crappy turnover in midfield, four passes, and Brad Norton with the finish after a gut-busting 80 metre run. It was Brad Norton's first goal for the club in two seasons, and just our sixth goal this season.

Putting all that to one side for the moment, I love everything about this goal. Its straightforwardness is of course a major appeal. The Knights fan yelling out 'chase!' even though Norton is already flying past the defender. Leigh Minopoulos leaning over to his left looking around a corner to make sure the ball goes in. The fact that Norton actually scores, of course. The laughter you can hear on the video is also a treat. All that, and the way it fulfils every Knights fans' fantasy, that they lose so many games to us that they have dominated.

Won't someone please think of the gamblers
To be fair, they did have the better chances in this game, but it's not like we weren't threatening in our own way. Had we been able to hit a proper through pass in the first half, we may have created even more chances than we did. The bigger problem from our end is that even with three nominally defensive midfielders, there were stretches of the game where we struggled to gain possession. There were the standard moments of indecisiveness in defence, and too many times where we went back to the keeper, but for the most part we defended well enough; which is not the same thing as great, but a step forward nevertheless..

The three points aside, the most pleasing aspect of the game for mine was the polished and mostly poised game of Ben Djiba, who started at right-back instead of Perry Lambropoulos. Apart from a solid defensive performance, Djiba also managed to get up the field and provide an attacking option. Djiba came off injured in the second half - hopefully he's OK - and Knights immediately attacked his replacement Lambropoulos; but Perry held his own well enough, which was also a good sign. Just because one prefers one player to start over another, it doesn't mean you want the less appealing player to struggle when he's on the field.

Other results fell our way, too - Kingston lost, and Oakleigh and Dandy City drew. We won't be able to rely on their collective ineptitude to survive, and we won't be able to rely on anyone else keeping us up in this season but ourselves

Next game
Hume City at home - at Lakeside! - on Sunday. The curtain raiser will be the senior women taking on Heidelberg at 1:30.

At the footy
One thing the NPL live streams have come in handy for is for when you're at the MCG on a Friday, or Saturday or Sunday, and you need something to fill in some time while you're waiting for a game to start and try in vain to block out the noise of the stadium music and announcements and kisscams and dancecams. Caught twenty odd minutes of Altona Magic vs Bentleigh, and apart from Sami Nour scoring with a nice volley, this was a hard game to watch because every few minutes someone went down like they were shot.

On the couch
There being no curtain raiser on Friday night, one had to wait around for an hour at Knights Stadium doing not very much except wait for other people to show up, and then wonder about the squad choices made by Esteban Quintas. As is their way these days, Knights have standalone senior matches for their Friday night home games, with the under 20s punted to Sunday afternoons. It makes sense I suppose. Come Sunday, I could've gone to Somers Street again to watch the under 20s game, but I didn't want to. I preferred to stay home and watch it on a live stream, partly for the absurdity of watching an NPL under 20s game on a live stream. Who could possibly be interested in this? Don't answer that.

Our boys dominated the early proceedings, in part thanks to a strong breeze, and Manny Aguek could've had a hat-trick within the opening 15 minutes, but he didn't. The game deteriorated to the point where it was hard to keep attention. Knights seemed to steady the ship in the second and had a bit more of the play, but a player of theirs that had apparently gotten injured was laying out the back of the southern goal, and eventually an ambulance turned up which delayed the game for about 15 minutes. Hopefully the kid is OK.

In recent seasons these kinds of situations have seen games abandoned, but this one resumed at about 77 minutes or so. A miscalculation by the Knights keeper coming off his line made things easier for Gio Marafioti to score what would be the only goal of the game. Usual practice for under 20s/reserves games is for there to be no injury time, but here the game went to about the 102 minute mark.

Manchester United at Olympic Park in 1967.
Photo from Weinstein family collection
Home movies!
Great work by George Cotsanis of the My World Is Round Facebook page and of course The Pioneers show on FNR. Last year he bought some reels of film off eBay, and got them digitised. The footage includes a half-hour long film of Manchester United touring Australia in 1967, with games - in colour! - against Victoria and New South Wales - as well as some junior soccer. Mark Boric provides a run-down and some background information on his blog about that film.

As part of this haul, George Cotsanis has also managed to unearth footage of Torpedo Moscow vs Victoria from 1965. Mark Boric also has some background on this game on his blog. Lastly, there's a brief film of the touring Roma side watching Richmond and St Kilda at the MCG. I think I've seen that footage or footage like it before; certainly I've read about the Roma players at that game, probably in the VFL Record.

Please, please, please share these videos with your friends, especially among your Man United friends and family.

Final thought
One may ask what's the point of trying to create a buzz about a game and a club, and deploying tons of volunteers all over the place, and trying to build a family-friendly environment and putting up #eraseNCIP and pro-rel banners, if a minority of goons is still intent on trying to intimidate and attack opposition fans by stealing scarves. One may say it's a minority, but it seems to happen more regularly than it should, and it makes you wonder if some people at Knights actually condone that kind of behaviour. I suppose we should be glad that this time at least, the goon's mates (and fiance?) convinced him to back off.


  1. I have grave fears for the future of this club with the muppets running it

    1. Well, put together a consortium then!

      The problem with the club is not those that run it or support it, it's with those that are no longer there!

      THEY are the muppets!


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