Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Another tipping point - South Melbourne 0 Kingston City 2

Two weeks ago, before the Avondale game, we were at least nominally the form team of the competition, having won four out of the previous five league games, and most of those against the either sides in the top three or against sides who were not so bad that they were in the bottom three.

Since then we have had a disappointing but nevertheless expected loss against Avondale, and whatever that was meant to be on Sunday. When these two teams played earlier in the season, Kingston hadn't yet won a game, but looked good at least for the first hour or so, and we looked good in the last half or so.

Sunday by comparison was dire from both teams. Kingston had only won one game since they'd beaten us, while we'd been up and down, our best being quite good and our worst... well there's plenty of room to talk about that, here and elsewhere.

Especially elsewhere, where people have written off the rest of this season as nothing more than an extended pre-season for 2020; and that's if we're in the NPL instead of NPL2 which, as noted by the doomsayers (currently in ascendancy over the optimists) is not exactly guaranteed.

This was a dull game from almost beginning to end. At least for the first 45 minutes, even as nothing of note happened for us, at least nothing of note had happened against us.

Then came a cheap defensive turnover, a quick forward thrust by Kingston - their first meaningful forward movement - and then a low cross (I won't deign to call it a shot) which deflected over the keeper into the back of the net. That sucked what little air was left in the stadium, and things only got worse from there.

The second half started with what was predictably a flurry of action from our end, but very little of attacking quality. By the end of the game, Kingston had added a second, subs were made, and we could've played for another two hours and not gotten close to scoring.

I've not named any players today, because we've fallen into the trap of scapegoating people, and sometimes they can take the blame, but there was so many flat performances on Sunday that it'd be wrong to single out any particular person.

Passing, movement, direction, and leadership - especially leadership - were all found wanting from our end. Had we been beaten by a team playing free flowing football, we could perhaps have rationalised it in some way.

But we lost to a team so low on confidence, playing such a simple game plan that in many ways was beneath them, and out of character too for a team that had built a reputation of playing attractive, attacking football on a limited budget, and despite the risks that entails for a team always likely to be threatened by relegation in this competition.

We were instead beaten by a team that sat back, gifted us possession while denying us space, and just waited for us to screw up. And screw up we did, enough times and bad enough that even those few chances that the visitors were able to muster were still of higher quality than anything we managed to put together.

By the end of the game there were more of those chances, too. And in the stands there was anger, and anger at the people who were getting angry, and all of sudden here we are again in another low. Every time we end up here, it seems like there's no way out. And each time, whether for an extended period or (usually) for a brief one, we manage to dig ourselves out for long enough to revive hope.

But each time that recovery takes a bit more out of everyone that's still left at the club, and it pushes more of our supporters beyond the threshold to which they can be bothered to give a stuff.

Relegation Battle (status: ongoing, stable but precarious, imminent change arriving)
Not a great week overall on the relegation front. Of course the centrepiece of that not greatness is our loss to Kingston, which arguably hurts us more than it has helped them, though of course all these things remain to be played out over eight more weeks. Dandy City continues to collect points. Port will be spewing that they weren't able to pick up a win against Gully, after leading by two goals and with a man advantage.

On the positive side - and there were positives - Pascoe Vale and Dandenong Thunder continue to rack up losses, and thus the nine point buffer between ourselves and the dreaded playoff spot remains for at least one more week.

Next week
Pascoe Vale at home on Sunday, for a ridgy-didge relegation six-pointer. Talk is that they've sacked their coach Vitale Ferrante. Not sure if that will make a difference.

If we win this game, I'm not going to come out and say that we'll be safe, but it'll do us a hell of a lot of good. If we lose, well, strap yourselves in for another stressful finish to the season.

Where's Luke's site?
It looks like Luke Radziminski's South Melbourne FC related photo-blog has disappeared off the internet. Not sure why.

Final thought
The national second division white paper has been released. Maybe we'll talk about that here next time.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Book review - A double dose of Knox City

Knox City is an unremarkable club. That's not a slur, but merely a statement of fact. They are not and never will be a household name, or even a cult name in Australian soccer. Being unremarkable does not mean however that the club is unimportant. Socceroos have come from this club. Knox played in Victoria's top-tier. Knox even had a brief a stint in the National Youth League. And if nothing else, Knox City is important to the people who continue to attend and support the club, as they have done in the club's various guises since 1951 - remarkable longevity for any club in Victoria, but especially for one not tied to a major ethnic community, and especially one situated in the far-eastern suburbs.

What is remarkable about Knox City however is that where most clubs in Australia have managed to produce nothing in print about their history, Knox is able to say that there are two published works about the club in circulation.

Covering the first 50 years, some 18 years ago Chas Collison put out From Basywater to Knox City: The history of a soccer club, 1951-2001, a small booklet discussing the first 50 years of the Knox City Soccer Club. The A4 booklet runs to no more than about 20 pages, but within those pages it does its job admirably. Augmented by photographs, the booklet briefly covers the origins of the club within the local community of German members of the Temple Society; a list of office bearers; brief decade-by-decade narrative summaries of the club's first 50 years; a divisional history; some stuff on the club's juniors; and a page on the off-season All Nations Cup tournament, which Knox hosts on an annual basis.

It's well presented, and is the kind of thing that most clubs should be able to produce without too much effort. An interesting element of Collison's booklet, and one which might otherwise go overlooked is that it was completed with a small government grant given during the International Year of the Volunteer. It's the kind of thing that more clubs should be aware of: that not only do these kinds of grants exist to help clubs compile, preserve and present their histories, but that Football Victoria also offers assistance in winning these grants (though in Collison's case I assume it would've well pre-dated such federation assistance).

Bruce Darnell's Knox City FC: An Updated History from 2017 is by the author's own admission not an attempt to re-write Collison's work, but rather to make note of what's happened since; namely a sharp decline after a brief flirtation with the Victorian top-flight, and the eventual steadying of the ship and the club's status in the Victorian third and fourth tiers.

But Darnell also goes back in time and tries to fill in gaps that perhaps didn't occur to Collison. Thus Darnell also provides space to Knox's women's teams, its juniors and veterans teams, and also about 20 pages of photographs. About 100 of the 180 pages on offer are dedicated to the statistical history of the club. This includes divisional histories, league and cup information, as well as information about office holders, record holders, and an updated list of All Nations Cup winners.

The centrepiece of Darnell's statistical summary is his cataloguing of the results of 1,432 of 1,440 of Knox's senior men's league matches up until the end of 2017. The fact that Darnell has been able to achieve that level of detail for a predominantly lower league club is incredible. Darnell's summary also provides a kind of snapshot for the state of Victorian soccer records. Mainline federation (that is the not the amateurs or church leagues) results for senior men's are usually available if you look hard enough; scorers for those games are much rarer, and line-ups rarer still; and for women's teams all but impossible to get, especially before the mid-1990s. Darnell's work also highlights the collaborative nature of soccer historiography as practised by Victorian amateur soccer historians. Darnell pays credit to the many historians and stats collectors who have come before him, including John Punshon and Mark Boric.

One disappointing thing about both of these publications is that neither appears to have made it to the State Library of Victoria's collections. It'd be a safe bet that few people outside publishing circles are aware of the concept of "legal deposit" - that is, the legal requirement of sending in copies of your publication to a state or national library. It's not just a matter of legal obligation; it also makes good preservationist sense. Australian soccer clubs are notoriously poor record keepers when it comes to history, and thus having a copy of a text published on this or any other club in the safe hands of a state library is a good idea/ And apart from helping researchers and the curious have a safe, easy to find copy, it also takes some of the pressure amateur collectors and archivists from having to preserve and somehow promote all of this material on their own.

Copies of Darnell's book are reportedly still available from Knox City. For those who want to peruse a copy of Collison's book, I have scanned it and made it available here.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Blergh - South Melbourne 0 Avondale 3

There's no lolly quite like a home-name brand lolly bought from a pharmacy.
Photo: Luke Radziminski. 
I can forgive the fatigue of three games in eight days, even though not every player out there on Sunday played in all three games. I can forgive the players for suffering under the yoke of some diabolical early refereeing (how did Krousoratis not get a free kick after his opponent tried to snap him in half?), though some of our own players - and the coach - really should be doing all they can to avoid nonsense yellow cards for dissent, time-wasting, and scuffles.

I can understand being disheartened after going behind to the league leader after matching them for forty minutes, in what was admittedly up to that point a pretty ordinary game without much football played for long stretches. But what happened after that was pure garbage. The second goal we conceded was completely fucked. You're 1-0 down, it's going to be the last play of the half, why you don't have every player in the box, why Pep Marafioti doesn't stay on the post and instead wanders into no man's land, and why doesn't Nikola move? Just mind-bogglingly shit. The header came from beyond the penalty spot, it didn't have much power, and yet instead of being cleared away all of a sudden we're 2-0 down and as far as I'm concerned, out of the game.

The rest you've probably already seen or heard about. A third goal conceded early in the second half, all part of the most dreadful, half-hearted 40 minutes of football you've ever seen. Thank goodness that Avondale also took their foot off the pedal, because if they hadn't we'd have lost this game by double the score or more. There was a five minute period late on where we had a couple of attempts on goal, and looked OK from corners, but that was it. Even with the commentary headphones on you could hear the bronx cheers from Clarendon Corner.

It will be interesting to see what the line-up will be next week with more or less a full-team (sans the injured Kostas Stratomitros) at our disposal. And that goes for Marcus Schroen and Nikola Roganovic as well - because while one doesn't want to single out any player for a below par performance, because everyone lowered their colours - these two above all seemed to put in flat-footed, awkward performances not befitting their status as senior players.

Sophomore album blues
Being on the live commentary for a second consecutive week was less enjoyable this week, if only because one had to maintain a professional veneer and remember to praise the opposition as well. Had your correspondent been in his customary position in Row H, he may have been able to vent a little more.

Now that I think about it...
My commentary gimmick should have been to call Avondale "Avondale Heights".

Next game
Kingston at home on Sunday. The kind of game we really should be winning, but we'll see I suppose.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, stable, approaching a fork in the road)
All things considered - including the likelihood, now realised, that we weren't going to get a point off Avondale - this was a pretty good week for us on the relegation front.

The only really negative thing is that Kingston couldn't get a point off Oakleigh, but since I had little doubt even before their form reversal that Oakleigh would sort itself out, perhaps it's better that Kingston lost, lest the Reds manufacture some sort of recovery (probably starting against us).

Dandenong Thunder choked hard, coughing up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 - let's leave aside for now whatever points punishment they may receive for last Saturday's shenanigans. Pascoe Vale got crunched by Port. Dandy City only drew with Gully. And as bad as our goal difference is, the teams in the bottom four spots are all worse off than us in this regard.

So with 9 games to play (27 points), we're 10 points clear of 13th, and 9 points clear of 12th. Certainly not safe, but I'd rather have the head-start than have to play catch up.

If some of you are still holding on to the finals fantasy, well, good for you. I'll be happy to join if and only if the next two weeks goes well.

Women hovering in that mid-table sweet-spot
Yes! I finally got to see a senior women's match after such a long time; of clashes, impossible to get to venues, of enjoying the Collingwood bandwagon before it sputters out sooner rather than later. I watched the first half of the women's game against the lowly Bayside United from inside the scoreboard operations room; which is to say, I saw bits and pieces of the game because the seating arrangements in that room are not exactly conducive to watching the action unless you're in the hot seat. I did see our first and only goal for the first half, as well as Sofia Sakalis' penalty hit the upright and go across the face of goal.

Later I decided to get a souv in the social club, and watched the second half from in there. The game turned into a procession, with South adding four more goals and showing that there's great disparity between these two sides, despite South's incredibly young team and whatever other results they had between them earlier this season. It's remarkable that in a ten team competition that there would be five kinds of club. Calder, the runaway leader and favourite for the title. Then there are the two teams behind Calder, who might be able to knock off the ladder leader on a once off, winner takes all game. Then there's the three or so clubs looking to sneak into the finals even though there's little chance of them doing any damage. Another three clubs just killing time. And Southern United, with a goal difference of -146.

Basically, we're in that sneak into the finals group, relying on taking care of business against the NPLW's dregs, and making sure to win the balance of the games against Box Hill and Heidelberg.

Around the grounds
Karpeh (oh no, please no, don't do it) Diem (damn you to hell)
Ralph Reserve. Third last (I think) Western Suburbs hosting (probably last) Altona East. Jerry Karpeh, playing for East, had an eventful game. Karpeh booked about 20 minutes in for persistent backchat. Half an hour in he was asked to put black tape on his socks because they had too much white. About 40 minutes in he scored the opening goal of the game, bundling home a goal from a long free kick that fell out the back of the Suburbs defence - important timing as Suburbs had just started to get on top. And with about 15 minutes to go, he cut back a ball across the six yard box that the Suburbs defenders thought had gone out, which was bundled in for 2-0 and the game. He also cocked up 2-3 more very gettable chances. Suburbs had enough of the ball and territory, but in general struggled to create meaningful chances until they were 2-0 down. They had a 15 second goalmouth scramble at 0-0, and hit the post at 1-0 down. I think both sides had a man sent off late for off the ball stupidity. A good day out, except for getting thorns in my hands while retrieving a ball that had got stuck in a cactus.

Final thought
Two Indonesians at Hellas! There goes the neighbourhood.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

See you next year - Melbourne Knights 4 South Melbourne 2

This is late not for any particular reason other than laziness. Not that anyone asked at any rate, which is reassuring

Since I didn't expect to win this game anyway, I can't say I'm particularly disappointed with the result. Sure I'm annoyed with how the result came about, but it was only an exaggerated variant of so many of our losses - and even some of our wins - that there were few surprises for anyone who's watched this team this season. And the key moments of utterly shambolic defending aside, it wasn't even close to our worst performance of the year. We scored goals, created chances, and fought the game out to the end, things which you can't necessarily say about our actual worst performances this year.

But you can't go coughing up certainly three - and probably all four - goals of that nature, when you're already in the habit of conceding at least one utterly avoidable goal every game. Our forwards have at least sorted out their end of the bargain to be scoring at least one and usually two goals a game to cover those defensive frailties - and the fact that we are inexplicably the form team of the league over the past five weeks backs up that assertion - but there's only so much they can be expected to cover at the other end.

Why not celebrate with us, Kristian Konstaninidis?
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The first goal we conceded came after three rather predictable examples of what we have been all about in 2019. First, we had by far the better of the first ten or so minutes, peppering away shots and crosses, and generally looking up for the contest. Second, we conceded from basically the first real chance that Knights had. Third, that chance was created because of poor defensive discipline by Marcus Schroen (and really, it could've been anyone, but as one of the few long term experienced players in the squad, Marcus has carried a target on his back all year), who dived in at a loose ball in midfield, when being more risk averse and keeping his feet to push the Knights player who would have got the ball wide would have been a safer, more productive move.

It's like I've said all year. If the opposition is scoring bombs from 20 or 30 yards out, you get upset but you also grin and bear it (unless it's a player like Andreas Govas who should never be allowed to line a up shot from any sort of range). But we give up these awful, gift-wrapped goals week after week, and while I know that it's also an NPL speciality across the board, but we're just terrible at it.

After managing to get back into the game via a Kristian Konstantinidis header - and for all his other cock-ups this season, there's probably no other player in this league that's as hard to mark from set pieces as KK - we copped a goal straight away. This happened not necessarily because Knights created an irresistible bit of football - though good on Hamish Watson for getting unmarked in the six yard box so easily - but because we were distracted by KK's antics celebrating in front of MCF of all people. South fans hate it when opposition players celebrate in front of us, but we're not too fond of our own players doing the same to opposition sides. It's admittedly a rare occurrence from our end, but it was such a stupid, hubristic thing to do by KK, especially when he couldn't easily celebrated with the fans behind the goal at which he'd scored.

Billy Konstantinidis appeared to injure his shoulder after scoring his goal.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Clearly KK and the team were fired up by the equaliser, but they were so fired up that they forgot the golden rule of state league reserves teams everywhere - after you score a goal, just kill the game off for three minutes to take the sting out of the game and avoid conceding due a goal via adrenaline and lack of concentration.

Sadly, any realistic chance to win the game was lost by the third goal we conceded. This was a goal that was so comically bad, if I was a European or Asian gambler watching the game I'd be be thumping the keyboard in disgust. Now on closer inspection there was a push against Marshall, but at time the confusion between Marshall and Roganovic looked so bad that I gave up all hope then and there.

When Billy Konstantinidis pulled it back to 3-2, some people decided to get all excited. The fools! Knights got it out to 4-2 right away, and that was that. Nick Krousoratis hit the post, and the team kept trying, but what a waste of time and energy it all was. We lost, mostly fair and square, and more or less by our own hand and hubris. Even with a lot of the changes to the first team in order to deal with the three day break and the cup-tied players, it was going to be an uphill battle. Part of that was going to be the fact that we couldn't use the cup-tied players who may have been useful, but that's the nature of recruiting in this league now, that unless you go searching in New Zealand or the abandoned A-League player pile for mid-season transfers, just about any player you sign is going to be cup-tied.

We can't even really blame the narrowed dimensions of the field. It's Knights' ground, and they're entitled to do what they want with it, and it was known weeks in advance that this was going to be the case. I'm reminded of an episode of King of the Hill (a show I have rarely ever watched) where Hank takes the role of grounds-keeper for the high school's football field, and adjusts the condition of the field, like leaving the grass long in the wide areas to combat the opposition's gun wide receivers. Everyone knows that South's offensive strength this year lies in its wingers, so why not use every means at your disposal to negate that? Meanwhile, though the injury to defensive midfielder Kosta Stratomitros early in the game didn't help, at our worst we kept banging the ball long to Billy Konstantinidis, who was out-gunned all night in the air. Thus the game at times resembled our recent loss to Dandenong City, where the opposition won the game because they got to direct affairs on their terms.

And where we sought to muck around with the ball in half dangerous areas in the back half, the Knights defence played a very disciplined style, getting any half dangerous ball out of play, adapting the old rugby union adage, "if in doubt, kick it out". That non-reluctance to give us back possession could've backfired of course, but since we decided to put in our worst defensive performance of the year, their overly cautious approach looked like genius by comparison to whatever it was that we were doing.

Now in this game at least we weren't completely outplayed in the way we were against Dandy City, but giving up the goals that we did, and failing to adequately adjust to narrow ground and Knights' defensive set-up, meant that we had to work extra hard to create chances and score from them, while Knights only had to wait until our next screw-up or lapse in concentration.

It'll sound like a commentator's cliché, but the least you could hope for after this loss is that we learn something from it.

How about that atmosphere?
As tends to happen after a South visit to Knights Stadium, there were allegations of racist chants from the home side directed toward either our fans or players. This time it was "you dirty Turkish bastard" chants directed at Kristian Konstantinidis.

Some South fans (rightly) attempted to bring this to the attention of the world and/or Football Victoria powerbrokers like FV CEO Peter Filopoulos, while knowing full well that almost certainly nothing would be done.

This is all the more hilarious (for want of a better word) because Filopoulos took aim at South fans for their alleged cruelty toward Heidelberg player Harry Noon when he got injured last year, and also took aim (rightly) at anonymous homophobic bigots on Twitter who were targeting the Matildas.

I feel sorry for Filopoulos on one point. As a former Hellas man, if he was to initiate action against the Knights, he'd be on a hiding to nothing in terms of "bias". Still, the more pertinent issue is that everyone just seems to accept that this is how some Knights fans behave, and there's nothing that anyone with any authority on the matter can do about it, if they even want to.

Things got a bit weirder online after this when a couple of people pointed out the hypocrisy (or irony?) of some Knights fans being at the forefront of trying to take down the National Club Identity Policy, while some Knights fans continue to sing racist chants. One might even think that some of these people could be doing both.

Anyway, there's no hypocrisy here as far as I'm concerned, because they are mutually exclusive behaviours. And maybe for some Knights fans, chanting racist garbage is part of the cultural heritage they wish to maintain or propagate?

Of course all that got lost in an argument about which club was best at not partaking in the other's post-match hospitality, so we'll see you back next year* for our next visit to Knights Stadium and the ongoing fan shenanigans which nothing will ever get done about.

Happily for all concerned, that will all get overshadowed by the vile antics of some Dandy Thunder/North Sunshine fans at Paisley Park tonight.

*Assuming we don't relegated.

Next game
Avondale at home on Sunday, that is, tomorrow. The curtain raiser for this match will be the senior women taking on Bayside.

On the couch
Tonight on Wings... ah, who cares?
Watched Hume vs Oakleigh on Tuesday night. Doesn't matter now.

Final thought
At least now we can focus all our energies on avoiding relegation, and then settling into our natural position for 2019 - either 7th or 8th.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Half team, full result - South Melbourne 2 Port Melbourne 1

Josh Dorron is that tall compared to his team mates, that he looks like a kid
who has been kept back a year in primary school. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
I had zero expectations going into this game, based on the rumour going around that we would be fielding a very irregular side, dropping this player and that player and also that guy, preferring to keep them fresh for Wednesday's cup game. This was more or less confirmed by the president during a brief chat we had before the game, and confirmed by the team sheet up online before kick off.

Of just as much concern was that we would have pre-planned, non-situational subs set up, which is the kind of thing which could backfire very easily. This was all the more worrisome because of the importance of this game to our chances of avoiding the drop, or if you're some sort of obstinate optimist, our chances of keeping up with the top six.

Nikola Roganovic dropped to the bench, replaced by Josh Dorron for his first appearance in a South shirt. Jake Marshall on the bench. Billy Konstantinidis on the bench. Zac Bates on the bench. Kristian Konstantinidis, Ben Djiba, and Leigh Minopoulos not even in the squad. Tom Aulton partnering Kostas Stratomitros at centre-back. Nick Krousoratis starting. Melvin Becket playing defensive mid! In such a crucial game, it seemed like madness, even if Port had Alan Kearney and Michael Eagar out.

Anyway, there was little time for me fret over these details, because I'd been called up to guest commentary for the match's live stream. This happened because I got to Lakeside, found myself alone and bored in the grandstand, and then moved into the scoreboard control room for a chat with the South media folks, and suddenly agreeing to do guest commentary for the senior men's game with Chris Gleeson.

Melvin Becket was the match's surprise packet. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Now even though I have little bit of live radio broadcast experience behind me (both as a guest and as a co-host), I was still a bit nervous before doing this game, which partly comes down to working with a new partner. But even apart from that, would it be noticeable that my eyesight is not that good? Would it matter that most of the Port players I recognised I did so only because they were ex-South boys?

In the end, we probably got away with it for the most part, although there were a couple of moments where I think I could've done better. I'll be better for the run, so to speak, should I ever decide to do it again.

The biggest difference to my normal experience of a game was of course that I actually had to pay close attention to what was going on out on the field, and not spend half the game making jokes about nonsense and then asking my fellow members of Row H what just happened when something notable occurred on the field.

Congratulations to Marcus Schroen on reaching 100 games for South.
Photo: Luke Radziminski.
What I noticed by paying attention is that the game followed a familiar pattern for a 2019 South match, despite the plethora of personnel changes. In other words, long periods of relative and actual dominance, alternating with periods where we're stuck in defence with no midfield presence of which to speak, leading to a cheap goal being conceded. The first half was that summary in a nutshell. A promising early start to the game, in which we even managed to score, followed eventually by a comparatively terrible last 10 minutes of the half where we gave up a very soft goal (though credit to Sam Ford for his turning our defence inside out, as he did in the earlier fixture between the two sides).

My concern was that like last week the late goal in that half would carry over into momentum for Port in the second half (and perhaps latent memory of what happened the last time we played against each other). And at least early in the second half, Port seemed to apply the tactic of playing around Melvin Becket. But then the game became the Melvin Becket show, in the great unlikely defensive midfield performance in a South shirt since... well, I suppose Oliver Minatel's run in that position last year. It's the kind of thing that will never, ever work again, though I bet we try it again at some point.

Our midfield, when it was there, looked good, and did that familiar thing of being rotated around like playing a game of H.O.R.S.E. on a basketball court. Of course so much depends on Gerrie Sylaidos, and he certainly made his presence felt at crucial moments. Less successful were other players, notably Nick Krousoratis, who just can't take a trick at the moment. The one time he was left unmarked however on Sunday he managed to keep the ball alive and cut it back to Skapetis for his first senior South goal.

Of course after that we had enough chances to bury Port but didn't. Defensively some of the effort of keeping Port out was typically chaotic, but solid enough. It'd be nice if we could keep a clean sheet. At least we made sure that ex-South man Giordano Marafioti didn't get on the score sheet, though the fact that he couldn't get his shot on target will serve as justification for own coaching staff not playing him more often.

Next game
Melbourne Knights away on Wednesday night in the FFA Cup. While it would obviously be nice to win, we'll be going into this game as heavy underdogs, playing on a narrow, bumpy pitch, in front of a hostile crowd. All the pressure's on them really.

Relegation battle (status, ongoing, slight improvement)
While yesterday's win takes us to within two points of the top six, my sights are still firmly set on the relegation battle, and the quest to get to that nominally safe 30 point mark.

So on that front, results generally went in our favour last week. Apart from our own win - a relatively rare one against a team below us this season - Kingston, Thunder, and Pascoe Vale all lost. Dandy City and Oakleigh both won, but I think we can safely assume that in the case of City that their mid-season 'ins' have already made a big difference, while for Oakleigh their form has inevitably taken a turn for the better considering the calibre of their squad. Or one can argue that once a certain disruptive force was removed, things turned around for them, but that's not really our concern.

After Avondale on Sunday, we've got Kingston and Pascoe Vale at home. Get four points from those latter two games, and we put ourselves in a position where those two teams are very unlikely to catch us. One week at a time though.

On the couch
Yes, we have no bananas
I had wanted to go watch the senior women's game against Box Hill United on Saturday, but life got in the way. First, I had to play the role of designated Saturday supermarket trip chauffeur. Second, there were bus replacements on the Lilydale and Belgrave lines, pushing out journey times from my place to Wembley Park to two hours. Third, it's all live streamed these days, isn't it? So after I got home from Coles I chucked the game on my phone, got about two minutes in with that particular incessant noise - you either know what I'm talking about or you don't - before my Vodafone connection chucked it in for the afternoon. The only bigger pity was that the women lost 2-1, in another less than inspiring performance. At least I avoided having to eat was apparently a very dodgy souv.

Final thought
The feedback I caught up with after the game on my contribution was positive, and I thank people for that. It seems like at least some of you at home were just happy to have a South person contributing to the broadcast of a South game, which is fair enough. I tell you what, it's harder than it looks trying not to celebrate a goal by your team on a live broadcast. Much easier was avoiding falling into the suggestion made by some unhelpful people about deliberately mispronouncing key words, or doing style shout-outs to Clarendon Corner celebrities.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Crap - Dandenong City 3 South Melbourne 0

Photo: Luke Radziminski
I was death warmed up on Friday night thanks to some stupid virus, and part of me wishes that I'd not bothered making the trip out to Endeavour Hills to watch the slop that we dished out, especially if meant being mostly bed and couch-ridden for the next few days (and who knows how many days after this post).

A word about the location of Frank Holohan Soccer Complex. By NPL standards, especially NPL public transport standards, it is the Middle of Nowhere, Beyond the Black Stump, and Out the Back of Bourke all rolled into one. Thankfully I got lifts to and from the ground, because walking through the mud and darkness, and in this case the rain, would've been utter madness. I say this as someone who's read enough Australian bush gothic literature to understand the dangers that lurk in that darkness.

The public transport guide that nobody reads but me has been updated accordingly.

The game itself was a dog's breakfast from our point of view, played almost entirely on the opposition's terms. That meant a lot of contested ball, lots of aerial ping pong, and few moments where we able to maintain possession, keep it on the ground, and get numbers forward.

A South Melbourne Hellas version of Where's Wally. Photo: Luke Radziminski
That being said, even though it wasn't looking like being a good night for us, it was fairly even for the first half hour, and we largely kept City from making too many threatening advances. Of course I worried about every set piece we had to defend, because we have been poor at defending those all season, but I was still harbouring the optimistic (and in the cold light of Tuesday evening, clearly foolish) belief that we could at least get a draw out of this game.

When we did manage to get it on the ground and control the game for a ten minute spell late in the first half, we looked great, consistently dangerous, often *this* close to scoring. It was mostly down to Gerrie Sylaidos, who all of sudden was able to assert himself (and thus establish a a Hellas midfield presence when none existed previously), bringing into the game Zac Bates and Pep Marafioti, who were also able to bring in Billy Konstantinidis. Unfortunately we managed to take none of the three or four very good chances we created during that timespan - though some doubts remain about the legitimacy of the offside call which denied Billy Konstantinidis a goal.

Then we coughed up the opening goal late in the first half from a set-piece, and we were cooked. Now, someone asked after we copped that goal "who was that smartarse who said we'd cop a goal from that free kick", and I owned up to making the statement - but let's be honest, anyone could've done it at any moment during the season and it would've come out to be true, not because of some sort of voodoo, but because we have been garbage at defending corners and set pieces. And no amount of supposed voodoo would ameliorate the poor attempt at a punched clearance (and even coming out for that punch) from Nikola Roganovic, and the poor attempt at a recovery from the whole defence.

Any hope that we would be able to recover in the second half disappeared quickly. Without any midfield drive or control, all we had was long balls to Billy, most of them from Roganovic, which I think tells you where moist of those long balls were reaching Billy - a long, long way away from goal. Eventually we copped a second and a third goal, capping off a horrible night all round. We were tactically outdone by a fairly straightforward opposition game plan, executed by a collective of experienced players who were able to impose their will on the contest.

Few players were blameless in our defeat, and the coaching staff will have to their share of the responsibility too. The younger, inexperienced players I can forgive to a degree, but our more experienced players failed to show the way. Marcus Schroen for mine was the key culprit. He's had been all over the shop this season, but in recent weeks has at least been able to showcase his value to the team with some crucial goals and passes. Friday night he had a stinker, the de facto midfield captain being nigh on invisible.

I've got to say though that the poor personal discipline of some of our players leaves a lot to be desired. And I don't just mean team orientated things like tracking back (which fell away across the board on Friday night as the game wore on), or even emotional intelligence (chin up, etc), but stupid, irrelevant, hopeless moment of action. Billy Konstantinidis, for all his indisputable talent and worth to this team, is someone who doesn't quite seem able to control his worse instincts when he becomes frustrated. There's already been that suspension from his punch against Pascoe Vale, and several niggly incidence aside from that. But the push on Adrian Leijer which saw Leijer collide with City keeper Damir Salcin and begin pouring blood all over the place was a cheap, unnecessary and as it turns out very dangerous thing to do.

That he didn't get a yellow card for it - while he was already on a yellow - is a little strange to me. Just as disappointingly, Peter Skapetis - who came off the bench for his senior South debut - also engaged in pointless off-the-ball antics. What did they achieve? What could actions like that achieve? Having never been a player myself, maybe there's some hidden, unknowable (to me) psychological reason for it.

Anyway, the whole experience (except for a $2 can of soft drink) was absolute garbage, and hopefully it's a while before we have to deal anything resembling that, including the children whose screams were straight out of a horror film.

"Hail my Führer, you Greek cunts"
There have been plenty of 'charming' characters we've come across in our time in the VPL and NPL. Sadly, sometimes these are South supporters. More often than not though, the aforementioned charming characters tend to be big egos and the safety of a home ground - and sympathetic home ground security and marshals who see South Melbourne supporters as a nice, big, soft target.

This week South fans noted an escalation in abuse and threats of violence from opposition fans, with the principle offensive character being a a hi vis Hitler fan. Not sure what his issue was, as no one had said anything to him or that group of City fans along the fence. Anyway, if anything it just goes to show that making a pre-game announcement about not tolerating anti-social behaviour is a perfunctory act if nothing's done to enforce standards.

One more very petty thing...
And this applies as much to Bulleen and Monbulk as much as it does to Dandy City. If you're going to host night games, that's fine - but if you do so, could you make the effort to either have adequate lighting, or if that's possible, at least wear a kit that doesn't blend in entirely with the surrounding night?

Next game
Port Melbourne at home on Sunday, in the first of our traditional mid-season stretch of home games.

Relegation battle (status: ongoing, stable)
Aside from own rubbish result, the other results actually largely went our way. Port Melbourne and Oakleigh both drew, keeping both behind us. More importantly, Bentleigh managed to come from behind to beat Pascoe Vale, and Kingston beat Thunder, keeping Paco and Thunder six and seven points behind us respectively. And if you're really desperate for glass half full validation, even Altona Magic remained (figuratively) within the relegation battle, losing 2-1 to Melbourne Knights.

Of course much of this would matter a lot less if a) we had at least beaten or drawn a few games against the teams so rubbish that they are somehow - still! - below us, and b) didn't have such a terrible goal difference. But all of this will matter until such point as we are no longer in a relagation battle.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn against the Melbourne Knights in round 7 of the FFA Cup. Of course, the typical South of the Border reader (whether you are South fan or a Knights fan), being highly educated and completely of the belief that there are no such as coincidences, already knew this was going to happen.

The only thing that rivals the surprise is the all NPL2 fixture that was also drawn; all of which is a reminder that there's no such thing as magic, just the combination of sleight of hand, warm balls, and enough people willing to suspend disbelief in order to make the spectacle work.

Oh, we've been drawn as the away team this time, so bonus points to Football Victoria

Mid-season transfer window comes to a close
A couple more signings to round out whatever it is we think we're doing this year.

We've signed Keenan Gibson, a central midfielder from Avondale. We've also signed Tom Aulton, a defender from Brisbane City, has also joined up. He comes with this glowing reference from up north:
Talk seems to be that Dean Bereveskos has been moved on to Dandy Thunder, while question marks remain over the fate of Ethan Gage.

Final thought
Many thanks to Mark for helping Gains and I get to the game, and to Johnny for getting us away from there.