Tuesday, 11 May 2021

That's a shame - Melbourne Knights 1 South Melbourne 0

There's lots of ways to look at a result like this. Tiredness after a short break from a cup tie three days before which went for 120 minutes, on top of a league game three days before that. The opposition was tired, too, and had its injuries, and the theory is that with our superior squad depth that we should have done better. I'd argue that we did do better in this game than our opponents, but a toothless attack on the night came back to bite us on the arse. Overall though, the game did not reach any great heights. It wasn't unwatchable by any stretch of the imagination, but it lacked any zazz, zing, zork or kapowza.

You could put it down to another overly defensive set up from the coach, who has a safety first approach that's held him (and us) in surprisingly good stead so far this year. The superlative cliché is that a solid defence is the foundation for a championship, but you've got to score goals as well. Or something like that. But he's also a strange kind of tactician, not just a cautious one. The tactical rotation policy made more sense this week than others, but the three subs at once thing was a tad more than baffling. That's a lazy FIFA video game player stunt if ever I've seen one. And why take off Perry Lambropoulos, who's barely played this year, and who was our best player by some way during the first half of this game?

Maybe it was just one of those days. Lambropoulos playing on the right wing put in enough good crosses in the first half, but there was no one there to meet them. Gerrie Sylaidos had a shot tipped wide, and Marco Jankovic had a header saved likewise. Those were the pick of our chances, as we struggled to connect with anyone in the box, or take meaningful shots from outside the box or from its edge. Left footers whose right leg is only good for standing on were the culprits later on, but the lack of two sided shooters didn't help earlier in the game either. 

It beats me how players can get to this level without being able to shoot on both sides of their body, but my catchphrase of "if they were as good as we think they should be, then they wouldn't be here" has become so worn that people at games are quoting it back to me in real time. I should probably get new material; but then again, if I was a better writer, then I probably wouldn't be here either. 

There was also the pact with the devil made by multiple people on Tuesday night, whereby we bargained for the cup win at the expense of a league loss. That deal made sense at the time - we were top of the table, well clear of the relegation zone, so it's not like we really needed a league win. Knights' players and supporters treated the victory like it was a major event, which I suppose it may have been for them. After a heart-breaking loss three days before, and playing with ten men in the closing stages, it could well be read as a morale booster. Still, their keeper grabbing his genitals and gesturing towards us Hellas fans behind the goal after the final whistle was a bit much. Each to their own I guess.

I think for us the loss was more disappointing than tragic. What it all comes down to is inevitability. While it's not like we ever had to lose another game ever again, the nature of statistics, chance, random number generators - in a nutshell, the universe in its tumbling nihilistic glory - means that we were likely to lose a match at some point. That point happened to be Friday night, but it could have been the Tuesday before. It could well happen again on Saturday afternoon.

As is customary among the fickle, or at least those persistently death-riding this team from within, this loss has opened the door to calls of imminent doom. The doomsayers may be proven right, because having lost the first in a series of four tough (and apparently season defining) league matches, we are told that we are likely to lose all of them, thus proving that we are more terrible than the other teams competing for finals, who vary in esteem to these commentators from "pretty good" to the "almost as terrible as we are, but not quite, because pathological self-loathing means I want us to be worse".

Look, whatever floats your boat and keeps you coming back for more I guess. Some people like positivity, some people like negativity, and some people (probably me) like floating around aimlessly between both extremes, with a dose of contrarianism and giving into whatever the dominant bandwagon is at that point.

It's a very tight season, so any slip up holds the risk of seeing a team tumble down the standings. The Bergers dropped two points to St Albans, and Avondale had to dig itself out of a deep injury time hole to get a point against Hume. That leaves us tied on 22 points with those teams, and just two points ahead of fifth placed Bentleigh. The top five sides have just one loss between them in the past five weeks; the bottom four no wins in five, and the bottom no wins in the last three. 

We've made hay while the sun shone, and now we're heading to a difficult part of the season. I'm neither terrified nor looking forward to it.

Next game

Avondale away on Saturday afternoon, a huge blockbuster first vs second clash. We'll probably lose.

FFA Cup draw news

Yesterday, Football Victoria held the draw for the sixth round of the FFA Cup. We have been drawn against fellow NPL1 side Eastern Lions. The outcome of the draw could've been worse for us - some of the other all NPL1 match-ups are pretty rough - but we also missed out on being drawn against any of the three remaining state league teams. So, all things considered, this is something in the middle.

The fixture will probably be played in between either the Bentleigh and Heidelberg matches, or in between the Heidelberg and Eastern Lions league matches. Much squad management to come.

Around the grounds

Life in other soccer jurisdictions

The other week I was up in Wollongong for a wedding (all the best to Nick and Seonne!), and favourable scheduling allowed for a trip up the highway to Balls Paddock for Bulli vs Bellambi. Of course I could've taken the coward's way out, toed the party line, and been less of a football hipster, and just gone to the NRL game near my hotel with everyone else. But because I am a soccer historian of sorts, and because I don't like rugby league all that much, and because I am prone to being wilfully difficult, I decided to do my own thing.

Turns out that the main reason I was even able to catch a Sunday game - most Illawarra games are played on Saturdays - is because of a referee shortage.

Now, here's the thing - I know of Bulli and Balls Paddock because of If You Know Your History, but until you see the ground in the flesh a lot of that book learning doesn't quite get fleshed out. Walking down the hill to the ground (which used to be in a slightly different location), and setting foot there, the picture of Illawarra soccer history starts coming together. The northern end hill with massive gum trees; the shed behind the southern goal which was transported piece by piece from somewhere else; Mt Keira and its coal seams in the west. 

And no food worth fetishizing to speak of. I had my back turned ordering a sausage in a roll (and a beer) when the underdogs Bellambi - who had had not won a game after five rounds - scored after ten seconds. Bulli applied the pressure after that. but found themselves 2-0 late in the first half from a counter attack. Bulli pulled a goal back early in the second half, but the visitors withstood their woodwork being hit three times, and six minutes of injury time, to win the game.

After the game I was driven around the northern suburbs of Wollongong by local soccer historian Travis Faulks, groundhopping to Tarrawanna, Balgownie, Woonona, Corrimal, and Bellambi among others. Lots of talk explaining the history of the grounds, the waxing and waning fortunes of the various clubs and the game, the power held by the leagues clubs, and the way in which the local scene works - who can afford to compete in their top division and who can't.

Very educational, very informative, and an afternoon much better spent than watching a rugby league game. 

Final thought

Kids, marriages, grey hair. Lots of people on Friday night wondering where the years have gone. Same place they usually do would be the glib answer, but I get what they were driving at. You stop for a moment and find out you're middle-aged. Worse, that you spent a good chunk of your youth watching state league football. 

Thursday, 6 May 2021

South Melbourne 1 Melbourne Knights 1 - South wins 4-1 on penalties

This derby is an anchor; amid the meaningless chaos of the rest of our days spent playing against opponents who struggle to come up with meaning, the fact that people still care about both South and Knights, gives matches between our two clubs a weight that is scarce within our league. Looking at an NPL fixture list and searching for games with a weight of history and feeling leaves most people coming up short. There's games against Knights, games against the Bergers, and little else. 

Now not every game and every opponent can and will have equal meaning, let along significant meaning. But clearly we all look forward to some games more than others because, as South Hobart blogger Richard Rants wrote about when we played his mob in 2014, it feels like somebody cares. Depending on the day and despite the best efforts of our behind the scenes team, so much of what we do nowadays feels like a chore, or going through the motions, or as a social gathering.

But the league games between these two sides over the past 15 years or so (the results of which heavily favour us) have hardly set the outside world on fire. No matter how good the games have been - and there have been several good league games between the two sides in the post-NSL era - few of them have had any meaning in regards to final placings, or been finals themselves. That's not helped by our erratic appearances in the finals, but especially Knights - in fifteen completed post-NSL seasons, they've made the finals just four times.

Say what you will about our bouts of mediocrity, but we've made the finals eight out of fifteen seasons, and won an additional title when there was no finals series. Apart from that one blessed moment when we stole that finals game in front of that Cro Tourney inflated crowd in 2013, we've barely been in the same postcode when it comes to competing for league honours. During that same time, we've had multiple finals matches against Heidelberg, Gully, Hume, Bentleigh, and Oakleigh, but this so called "OG Derby" has been a letdown in terms of the league.

But that's where the cup comes in - specifically the FFA Cup, and not the Dockerty Cup, much to my ongoing chagrin. Because cup matches allow for one off and focused moments of success, and because the FFA Cup brings (or at least used to) with it all that garbage of national stage, relevance, promotion and relegation, and that brief moment to be able to exploit national and nostalgic attention. As thoroughly sick I am of being matched up against them in the cup - that ridiculous four times in seven years - it is nice to have that attention on this fixture in a way that we used to.

Still, that didn't mean the crowd turned up in proper droves on Tuesday night. Knights had their pockets, we had a stronger than usual contingent, and we were boosted by enthusiastic South junior players to Clarendon Corner's left. But it wasn't an earth-shattering crowd. For every person that turned up, there were far too many clicktivists who tagged their mates into the event on Facebook in the usual way, and were never going to show.

So while I feel sorry for those that genuinely couldn't make the game having to make do with no livestream, and while I feel bad for our media team that we couldn't get a large stream audience to accentuate their promotional efforts, I also kind of feel like for the rest of the stay-at-homes and we-shoulda-gones that they got their just desserts. 

I don't care what people say - for me, the proof in this fixture's popularity, or lack thereof, lies not in minutes watched at home, but minutes watched in person.

So, you know, if you squibbed attending this game because it was too cold (it wasn't) or made only half-hearted noises about maybe possibly thinking of being interested in attending: well, fuck you. There's a handful of "meaningful", old school rivalry games each year in the NPHell and its affiliated competitions, so if you're complaining about missing on a livestream because you decided to stay home, that's on you.

Our clubs need bums on seats, not couches. I get that not every game has the same appeal, not every opponent brings the same vibe, and not every timeslot suits everybody. But if not this fixture, than which one? An elusive grand final between one of the current NPL's NSL Three of South, Knights, Bergers (with apologies to Gully)?  

The best thing about it is, all those stay-at-homes missed an absolute cracker of a game. Missing out on a classic like this won't mean that they'll up to the next game, but it did bring a smile to my face when I was reading the Facebook comments later. That was an old-school vibe - either you were there, or you weren't.

And what a game it was, end-to-end, ebb and flow, and no shortage of drama; another chapter added to this strange generational rivalry which is both ethnic (because in the Australian soccer scheme, we are inevitably ethnic), and not ethnic (because our ethnicities share no obvious hereditary animosity). It is a rivalry founded on two teams who once excelled at the same time, and then became the default remaining Melbourne-based national league teams, and finally two of the few teams left that everyone who's moved on can name.

I thought we had the better of the first half, but it wasn't like Knights were far off the mark. You could feel a goal coming from somewhere, some mistake, one piece of luck, one stroke of brilliance. Both teams were looking to attack, and if the skill level didn't quite match what the players would have liked to have done, it was still a very watchable affair. Then we conceded a corner early in the second half - Knights first for the game - and fell behind.

I was ready to concede the game at that point, not because I thought we couldn't make our way back into the game - but mostly because I thought we'd had a good run this year, and it was bound to end at some point. Losing would be disappointing, but not disastrous, nor even shameful. And besides, considering we had a day's less preparation and our best three attackers on the bench, it;d make sense if we lost. I'd made my peace with the eventuality.

Strangely though, rather than maintain a sort of moderate attacking focus, Knights decided to try and kill the clock from the 60th minute. Dangerous stuff as far as many of the people around me were concerned, all that going down injured, taking extra time to take free kicks, goal kicks and throw ins. I mean, if it works, you look like the master of shithousery. If it doesn't, it looks like what it did on Tuesday night - simultaneously arrogant and insipid.

So credit to our team for admittedly doing what was necessary and fighting and pushing to the end, and riding its luck to get the game at least into extra time. Credit to the South crowd, too, for helping push their side when the players were showing clear signs of exhaustion. I'll say this - despite some of our misses, the team didn't get disheartened.

I suppose it helps when Matthew Breeze - the focus of much mirth and mischief on the night - slammed what clearly should have and would been the sealer - against the crossbar from Pierce Clark's mistake. And it helps when the referee (who I felt had a good game), had the guts to make the right call on Harry Sawyer being dragged down by Nikola Jurkovic.

And my goodness, the placement of Marco Jankovic's penalty, and the (what I learned later) lack of shenanigans about who was going to take the penalty, considering Sawyer and Gerrie Sylaidos have taken them this season, and Marcus Schroen is always on hand to have a go as well. I remember Chris Taylor telling me back in the day (I think he did, anyway) about penalties being best left to those who want to take them. Still, we had that situation a couple of years ago when too many players wanted to take a penalty, which almost left to fisticuffs.

So while at 1-0 I was happy enough to take the loss on the chin and move on, at 1-1 I was rady to be appalled and heart-broken if we lost. Into extra time, and with the allowance of a fourth substitution meaning we could back to a back-four after having to chase the game with a back-three, we really should have won the game before penalties. I wish we had, because that way there's clearer moral clarity about the final result.

Too bad we don't replay cup matches anymore. And I hate penalty shootouts, not just because of their moral ambiguity, but also because our history with them is not good - like 30 years not good. Knights fans might say much the same on the later point. We handled the situation much better that our opponents, and everyone was free to revel on the eerie and hilarious similarities between this game and the 1991 grand final, whence we snatched an equaliser from the jaws of defeat, squandered the chance to win it in extra time, and then won the thing on penalties.

Almost thirty years to the day it was, too. The crowd went nuts, there was much smiling and playing of the trumpet, and we move on to the next round to get knocked out by a team of much lower historic pedigree than Knights, that of course being the magic of the cup. I can't say anyone played poorly for us; even the players I don't particularly like played well, or at least better than I usually expect of them. Not in that category was Ben Djiba, who is coming along very nicely thank you very much. A super game in the back-four and back-three setups, and some clinical one-on-one wins at very crucial moments.

So, yes I left this part of the game well pleased with the quality of the game, the generally lively atmosphere, and the result.

But also, I am over this shit

Some people cannot help themselves it seems. There was an admittedly small amount of South fans which stormed down to the players' race at the end of the game to heap abuse on the departing Knights players, instead of celebrating with their fellow fans or with our own players. Who knows what motivates those kind of antics. We'd just won a thrilling cup tie, there was nothing to be upset about, and yet these people's attention was unnecessarily sent outward to undeserving (in the sense of they do not deserve our attention) targets. 

Worse though were reports of an isolated pocket of what I assume were now very irregular attendees of South games, spewing political and sundry comments that were once more common, but which had otherwise all but disappeared from South games. Some similar bullshit came from the Knights fans, as is often the case. This nonsense continued after the game outside the social club, when for some reason a couple of our fans - I assume the same fans as those mentioned just before - and a few of theirs decided to aggressively taunt each other in the dark of the car park.

It being well known that some Knights fans hardly need any excuse to fight opposition fans, the antics of our supporters were just stupid - not for what would happen to them necessarily, but what would potentially happen to innocent bystanders (like yours truly) caught in the crossfire as an easy target. Credit to those trying to get their mates to pull their heads. No credit to our idiot fans trying to start shit for no possible conceivably good outcome; especially when they come to realise that, actually, they parked in the opposite direction to the one in which they were heading, meaning me and a couple of others had to go back into the social club to kill some time instead of taking the risk that we'd get jumped in the dark for someone else's malakies.

Most of us just want to turn up to games, hang out with our mates, support our team, feel bad about after a loss, feel less bad after a win, and then get home in one piece like a normal human being. Some of us might even be good enough to accept a loss with good grace with an opposition supporter, or even be something other than smug and fuckwitted after a win. It's not too much to ask for.

Next game

Back to league action, away to Melbourne Knights on Friday night. Keep in mind that this game kicks off at 8:15, not the Knights now customary 7:30 kickoff time. The curtain-raiser however is not the under 21s fixture, but rather Knights senior women taking on Preston.

Final thought

Apart from the spirited chanting from Clarendon Corner, the most pleasing aspect was the chanting from our youth team players, including their "where is your hair" chant toward Matthew Breeze. Simple, funny, delivered with no malice. Good to have them along for the ride.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

South Melbourne 2 Hume City 1 - guest report by Gains


Owing to my absence last weekend due to attending a wedding in Wollongong, this week's match report was written by Gains - thanks mate! I would have had it up sooner, but... well, it's a long story, and I'll save it for next time.

I honestly still cannot believe we are top of the league at this point in the season. Before the season started I believed we would miss the finals based on what I saw last season, short as it was. I'm happy to be proven wrong but I was still cautiously pessimistic heading to this game due to my own personality and the congested fixtures. 


The game being on Orthodox Easter weekend saw fewer people attending. with row H usually the spot for Clarendon Corner completely empty until just before kick-off, despite it being a warm and clear Saturday. 


As we are going to be playing three games in less than a week the squad rotation, though a bit excessive throughout Esteban Quintas' coaching, was necessary this time. The main question of whether Harrison Sawyer would be fit for the whole three games were answered by the introduction of Josh Barresi who debuted seemingly behind Henry Hore in the starting line-up. There were seven changes in total from the Dandenong City game - notably captain Brad Norton left out, with Perry Lambropoulos replacing him at left back, and Marcus Schroen wearing the captain's armband. 


With these changes in mind, the initial expectation was to not lose considering Hume City had comfortably won their cup fixture, and were free to field a strong line-up. This was not the case. as we started the half strong and took the lead before ten minutes. A good build up on the left side of the attack saw Gerrie Sylaidos finding Lambropoulos in the box, who passed the ball to Barresi, scoring on debut with a sliding finish. Barresi himself proved to be a worthwhile alternative attacking option by being able to switch positions between himself and Hore, compared to Sawyer being a clear target man. In fact South was in control for most of the first half, with passes and long balls down the flanks being very hard to handle by the Hume defenders and South being more solid in the midfield; Luke Pavlou in particular showed improvement from his previous games. There were some defensive lapses near the end of the first half, one being a clearance by Jake Marshall after James Burgess was lobbed by the Hume attacker but the lead stayed at half time. 


Hume started stronger in the second half and created some dangerous chances which were then neutralised by several South substitutions to bolster the defense and being mindful of the next fixtures. Daniel Clark came on for Zac Bates at the beginning of the second half to support Luke Adams on the right side, and Lirim Elmazi for Schroen to strengthen the defensive midfield. During this time and after Sawyer was introduced to replace Barresi, South had at least four chances to seal the game with the notable one being Lambropoulos through on goal shooting straight at Michael Weier. With ten minutes left South fans were almost expecting the team to be punished for all those missed chances, but Hume's Andy Brennan and substitute Theo Markelis also failed to convert their chances. Just before stoppage time Sawyer received a long ball, and after controlling it hit a powerful low shot which crept underneath Weier and past the goal line despite the keeper's desperate attempt to retrieve the ball before it crossed the line, and South seemed to have the points secured. 


That unfortunately did not happen, as Burgess was late off his line trying to punch a long ball and Bingham headed the ball over him to pull a goal back for a nervous finish. South however held off for the 2-1 win and four points clear on the top of the table before Heidelberg's win later in the day. 


All in all, I am happy to continually be proven wrong and with the squad looking more cohesive, hopefully this will lead to a strong end to the first half of the season. 


Next Match 


Back to back matches against Melbourne Knights, first tonight being the Dockerty Cup/FFA Cup qualifier match at Lakeside (note: South members still have to pay the $10 entry fee) and then on Friday night the away league fixture at Knights Stadium. Others may disagree but I personally consider Melbourne Knights fixtures as the one I look forward to the most every season, as a person who has never been to a single NSL match and started attending VPL matches in 2009. Too bad the Knights cup match wasn't a Dockerty Cup final but sadly it's a more important fixture. 


Ideals and Reality in a Competition Name 


I share Paul's dislike of the name change from Dockerty Cup to FFA Cup Qualifier, the former being relegated to the semi-finals and final of the competition. It devalues a cup competition with a very long history and prestige to merely three matches. Unfortunately this seems to be a view shared by a minority as I do remember the numerous first and second round forfeits when it was called the Dockerty Cup to the point of Oakleigh Cannons not realising the competition serves as a qualifier for the FFA Cup basically played a weakened team and lost the match/qualifier when Miron Bleiberg was coaching the team. 


It seems amazing that the name change magically has teams willing to participate, making it a slim chance for a potential money making chance rather than an early season distraction. I find it a questionable way of thinking though since if these teams forfeited their fixtures during the time it was called Dockerty Cup, what would make them think they can compete against teams at a higher competition level with the same eye on the financial incentives? Sadly that is how the world works and as much as I want the Dockerty Cup name, the FFA Cup qualifier name will remain. 


I still dislike the concept of the FFA Cup itself without the presence of promotion/relegation but it's a discussion for another topic and time. As much as I hated it, I want South to win in every competition and though it's pretty much impossible, the FFA Cup is also a competition that we can participate in. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Top of the league with low expectations - Dandenong City 1 South Melbourne 1

Before I wrote the previous post, I assumed that I wasn't going to be at this game, but through the magic of the South of the Border audience, there I was at Frank Holohan Soccer Complex, eating a raznjice roll instead of a pork belly roll (because Gains apparently got the last one), and drinking a non-zero sugar CC & Dry. What a magical evening this was already, and then it was ruined, absolutely ruined, by the muddling team selection. 

With a nearly a full week between the St Albans game and this one, and over a week between this game and the next one against Hume, I could not, and cannot for the life of me understand why Esteban Quintas chose to once again rotate the squad Mickey Arthur style. Pick the best damn attacking options and get on with it. My lord, it is so frustrating to watch this team knowing that if its optimal attacking set up was unleashed, it would be in a much better position not just to win games, but to also win them well.

I'm sure Quintas has his reasons. Freddie Sey got a start instead of Gerrie Sylaidos or Zac Bates, and on five minutes should have had a goal, or at least a shot on target. Instead he hit Henry Hore's cut back in such a messed up way, that even watching it half a dozen (and them some) times on replay, I can't figure out what Sey was trying to do. It looks like he hit the ball with both feet at once, but even thinking about the mechanics of that just make me dizzy.

Anyway, these things apparently happen. But despite controlling the early part of the game, having not taken the lead from a great early chance early mean that City could afford to continue to play the game on its terms, in the sense that they were built for rapid counter attacks and making the most of mistakes in the middle. Since we were carrying the ball up field and committing numbers forward to do so, and since the pitch - by far the bumpiest I've seen this season - made ball control in the middle of the park difficult.

And despite being bottom of the table, City were hardly terrible. Certainly they looked more likely than St Albans. To wit - they opened the scoring thanks to a new recruit, secured with a transfer system loophole, a great finish even if our friend did have too much space on the edge of the box. On first glance it looks like Ben Djiba gets turned inside out, but the replay suggests that he's effectively being asked to mark three opponents while some of his midfield teammates are ball watching.

Some may say that wouldn't have happened under, say, Melvin Becket's watch, but that's a story for another day. Second half, a couple of attacking substitutions, and there we were, hunting for the equaliser in a game that had gone from messy and tolerable in a "I'm watching an NPL match, so I need to remind myself not to expect too much" way, to helter skelter, up and down, attack and counter attack, being on the edge of your seat wondering if the next gial would be ours or theirs.

As it turned out, the next - and only - goal was ours. Henry Hore with another cute assist, though Daniel Clark had some work to do to turn on his right and toe-bash the ball into the back of the net. Former South man Gavin De Niese, who was marking Clark, would probably be disappointed with himself for being so far off Clark when the latter got the ball. Either side of the equaliser City's goalkeeper pulled off any number of good saves, though he was also helped by the post after he cocked up one sequence, and also helped by us stuffing up a three on one opportunity.
There's a part of me that can't decide if we thought this game would be easier than it turned out, or if we gave too much credit to the home team. Either way, it was two points dropped for us, and being top of the league playing bottom, there's no way of getting around that. While there are no guarantees in any match, logically a team such as ours, on top of the table after eight games - even if we're not quite sure how we did that - should be winning these games, especially with the quantity of chances we created,

Still, after the game ended there followed the applause of much of the crowd, for I assume (I hope) both teams, who put together a very entertaining second half. And then some argle-bargle happened down near the players race, which kinda took the edge of the feelings of good sportsmanship and appreciation of a good game of football. At least we didn't cop anyone giving us a Nazi salute this time, so that's a plus.

Next game
Hume City at home on Saturday afternoon. Prior to the senior game I believe the annual Tony Clarke Memorial Shield game will take place. The under 21s will be playing after the senior game.

I'm not expecting a big crowd up against all those state league fixtures, and on Orthodox Easter Saturday to boot. Even I won't be there, as I will be in Wollongong for a friend's wedding.

So if you want to write up this week's match report, send me a line, because chances are I won't even get to watch this game on delay.

Now it's official
Our cup game against Knights is on Tuesday May 4th, 7:30PM at Lakeside. South memberships won't get you into this game, but tickets are only $10.

I did not expect that
Last night on a whim, I decided to head out and catch our senior women in action at Lakeside against FV Emerging, because that's how much I love Monday night football. Considering the spanking our women gave Bulleen in round 1, and how even an at times half-arsed performance in round 2 gave us a win over Calder, I was expecting good enough things for round 3. Big mistake. I'd heard that the Emerging program (re-badged from whatever its previous name was) has been looking good this season, but I didn't expect it to be this good. I'm told they train four times a week, getting up at six in the morning, and have the odd over-age player, but notwithstanding any of that, they looked damn good. Scary good. They made our team look second rate. We couldn't get the ball; and when we did get the ball, we couldn't do anything with it; and when we did do something with it, it was hardly spectacular. I don't think we had a shot on target all night. And despite one cock-up, if not for Melissa Barbieri in goal, we wouldn't have only lost 5-0.

It wasn't down to fitness, or the individual physical qualities of players such as speed or strength. It was down to the quality of the teamwork from Emerging - their passing and movement a real cut above almost anything I've seen in local women's soccer. Much to think about for our women's team then, and much to think also I assume for any opponent of FV Emerging.

Promotion and relegation chat
I don't normally do this, but on the Australian soccer history podcast that I co-host, we recently had a chat with Australian soccer statistician Andrew Howe about the way promotion and relegation worked in the National Soccer League. Might be worth tuning in just in case you ever wanted to weigh in on the topic on social media.

Live streaming
First you get the streaming; then you get the gambling; then you get the women
Saturday afternoon, and I could not be arsed driving to Paisley Park. I also could not be arsed walking to Ralph Reserve. Decided instead to sit on the couch, fire up the Xbox, and watch some streaming matches on YouTube. Congratulations to all the streaming service advocates, you've won. I was flipping across multiple games, with no loyalty to any one contest. Devonport vs Olympia held my interest for as long the underdog Olympia were leading 2-1. Then when Devonport equalised, that was it for me. Bergers vs Port? Flat sounding commentary and no crowd ambience meant that the game didn't hold much interest, and it looked like the Bergers were in control anyway. The choice then was to flick back and forth between the Avondale-Thunder, and Preston-North Sunshine games. North Sunshine had four ex-South players in its lineup - Mala, Epifano, Zeneli, and Budimir - and the game had its share of tension and a big time feel. And the game at the Reggio Calabria had Avondale trying to win to close the gap to us... and yet I wasn't able to fully commit to the story of either game. It all came across as so frivolous, having all that choice. Richey Edwards had a line about that in a song the Manics completed years after Richey's mysterious disappearance, but that's really only of interest to exactly one person reading this: me.

Final thought
Thanks to Paul C. for giving me and Gains a lift to and from the ground - it was very much appreciated!