Monday, 8 December 2003 12:00 AM
South have lost their top position status after going down 3-1 to a Stuart Petrie inspired Northern Spirit. South’s squad was largely underdone with injuries to key players such as Paul Trimboli, Levent Osman and Michael Panopoulos leading to a somehwhat makeshift South line-up.
Scotsman Petrie sunk long range shots in each half, both 20-metre efforts set for the end of season highlights reel.
With little on at the stroke of halftime Petrie cracked a looping left footer to leave South Melbourne keeper Eugene Galekovic stranded.
Opposition striker Michael Curcija pegged one back in the 54th minute with a deft header from a Sam Poutakidis cross but it would prove to be Petrie and the Spirit’s night.
The 33-year old pounced two minutes later, propping with the ball at his feet from a similar range before striking a sharp shot into the left hand side of the net.
A solo effort by substitute Brent Fisher two minutes from time sealed the surprise result for the Spirit.
Earlier South Melbourne had struggled with decent supply but ultimately had the better scoring chances in the first half thanks to some impressive counter attack.
But the final touches were always on the leaden side.
In the eighth minute captain Vaughan Coveny – a surprise starter after a hamstring injury was expected to keep him out of the game – kicked straight at the keeper in a one-on-one situation with Paul Henderson.
Then striker Michael Curcija skied a ball in scoring range a minute later before midfield maestro Con Boutsianis’ header found the cross bar in the 29th minute.
The homeside had no such problem with penetration but seemed to lack options when it came to the penultimate ball.
That was until Petrie took it upon himself to do all the work with the first of his two superb strikes.
Spirit coach Lawrie McKinna was unsurprisingly full of praise for Petrie and his freakish conversions from difficult positions.
“Stewart was tremendous – he held the ball brilliantly,” McKinna said.
“But overall I was pretty happy with everyone – sometimes playing with a wind and no brains isn’t an advantage but we made it (the swirling conditions) work for us tonight.”
South Melbourne mentor Stuart Munro wasn’t displeased either, claiming his side played reasonably well despite not being “championship material” just yet.
“You could kind of tell it wasn’t going to be our day,” Munro said in reference to the three clear chances for South that went by in the first half.
NORTHERN SPIRIT 3 (S Petrie 45m 56m B Fisher 88m) bt SOUTH MELBOURNE 1 (M Curcija 54m) at Pittwater Park. Referee: A Nardi. Crowd: 1859.