Thursday, 1 January 2004 12:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Saturday’s game at Perry Park presents both the visiting South Melbourne and the hosting Brisbane Strikers with a great opportunity to re-consolidate their positions in the top six.
The Strikers were last week dealt a 6-1 thumping at the hands of the Champions Perth Glory in the first match played at the newly re-developed Members Equity Stadium. Conversely, South were desperately unlucky to go down by a 2-3 score-line at the hands of the Wollongong Wolves who rode their luck for most of the encounter and then managed to snatch victory right at the death.
Stuart Munro’s men will be keen to avenge their 4th round loss to the Strikers at the beginning of the current season. That day saw the Queensland-based club play an astute tactical game that saw a lone goal by midfielder Louis Brain prove to be enough for Stuart McLaren’s men to snatch all three points at Bob Jane Stadium.
Brisbane player/coach McLaren has done a superb job in getting one of the critic’s “supposed” cellar-dwellers into a strong position to push for finals football. Brisbane has been dealt quite a blow in that gun wingback Shane Stefanutto has signed a contract with Swiss club Lillestrom. Stefanutto has been ever-present down the right side for the Strikers and will no doubt be sorely missed. However, the Strikers possess dangerous players in David Pilic, Louis Brain and powerhouse forward Royce Brownlie. Brisbane custodian Jason Kearton has continued to provide stability between the goals and in youngster Luke Morley, the Strikers possess one of the country’s up-and-coming talents. Throw in the hard-nosed defensive play of McLaren and the Strikers possess all the ingredients of a hard-working unit that plays together and for each other.
Conversely, Munro’s squad is brimming with depth, Marcus Stergiopoulos who was absent against the Wolves due to injury again finds himself with a question mark over his participation after struggling to overcome an ankle complaint. The doubt of Stergiopoulos aside, Coach Munro has a virtual full squad to choose from. With players of the calibre of Michael Panopoulos, Con Boutsianis, Vaughn Coveny, Michael Curcija, Scott Tunbridge and Massimmo Murdocca, it is clear that when South Melbourne attack a plethora of options exist and goals can be scored from a variety of sources.
Selection headaches are a pleasant problem when the team in going well and Munro will have plenty of them when deciding on his final squad to make the trip to Perry Park.