Thursday, 2 October 2003 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Friday night South Melbourne travel to the heart of Wollongong to take on the Wolves. The NSW-based club like many teams in the National League this season has had to cope with budgetary constraints and significant changes in playing personnel.
Wollongong’s start to the season has also been far from favourable; two losses in the opening rounds of the season against Sydney United and Marconi have the club languishing in 2nd last position (12th).
Conversely South Melbourne have had a week to reflect on their encouraging first round result against championship favourites the Parramatta Power, to compensate for the lack of match practice coach Munro put his team through a decent hit-out against State 1 side the Oakleigh Cannons last Friday evening.
Much-heralded recruit Michael Panopoulos is expected to make his NSL debut for the Lakesiders after deciding to sit-out the game against the Power in order to concentrate on his fitness. Panopoulos should slot nicely into the heart of the South midfield winning the hard balls and supplying midfield dynamo Massimo Murdocca with plenty of service.
The Wolves boast one of the nation’s most talented young players in Jacob Timpano, Timpano has represented Australia at youth level and is expected to develop into a top-line defender. British import Stuart Young also returns for another season and his mere presence should keep the South Melbourne defence on its toes throughout the encounter. Young’s partnership with Tanju Balabanel – a player who has experienced Turkish football and set the NSW premier league alight last season – remains critical to Wollongong’s hopes of breaking down the South Melbourne backline. Somewhat ironically Young has seen Wollongong go the full circle, from a dual championship winning side to a side in the midst of a rebuilding process and one tipped to struggle this season.
On paper it’s hard to not expect South Melbourne to get a positive result, coach Munro has gone someway into easing South’s supposed “travel” curse by getting a point at Parramatta. Wollongong’s squad remains on the learning curve and is largely unproven at NSL level. South’s experience will hopefully serve them well. A positive result awaits.
Game: Wollongong Wolves vs South Melbourne
Date: Friday 3 October 2003
Venue: WIN Stadium
Kickoff: 7.35pm AET
HEAD TO HEAD (Overall):
Wollongong wins: 12
South Melbourne wins: 19
HEAD TO HEAD (at Wollongong):
Wollongong wins: 6
South Melbourne wins: 8
South Melbourne 0-0 home draw – 26 January 2003 (Round 19)
Wollongong 2-1 away loss v Marconi
South Melbourne BYE
Position on Ladder: 11th v 8th
Wollongong Wolves Squad: A Crews (gk), M Jurilj, B Blake, A Hughes, N Arrarte, T Balabanel, M Hawrysiuk, S Lyons, S Young, J Timpano, C Nwagazi, J Majurovski, D Cummins, D Wells, S Whalan (gk)
IN: J Timpano
OUT: B Dragas (hamstring – 1 week), V Zoric (Knee – 2 weeks)
South Melbourne Squad: E Galekovic (gk), M Durakovic, A Kovacevic, L Osman, M Stergiopoulos, M Murdocca, V Lia, M Curcija, C Boutsianis, S Tunbridge, V Coveny, S Pantelidis, M Lohy, M Panapoulos, M Theoklitos (gk)
IN: M Panapoulos (promoted)
OUT: S Storey (injured – knee), P Trimboli (hamstring – 2 weeks), D Anastasiadis (foot – 3 weeks)