Thursday, 3 February 2005 8:00 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Coming off an encouraging draw against bitter rivals Heidelberg United, South Melbourne entertains a newly shaped St. Albans Saints in the 2nd round of the Vodafone Premier League.
The Saints have been decimated by departures, five of which have been to sister-club the Melbourne Knights. Dario Matkovic, Neven Antic, Tommy Milardovic, Tomi Razov and Mark Vidakovic have all made the move to Sunshine whilst experienced coach Vlado Vanis has also left the club. Gutsy midfielder Ante Deak is trying to win an A-League contract and will also be missing from the Saints’ plans this season whilst NSL-experienced striker Paul Urlovic has also departed.
The Saints have brought in seasoned veteran Vinko Buljubasic to try and marshal the defence, whilst pre-season South trialist Ivan Razov – a quick winger/midfielder – has also joined the club.
New and untried coach Srecko Baresic has the ominous task of trying to keep the Saints in the premier division this year with last week’s 2-0 loss against the newly promoted – and early favourites for the drop – Sunshine Georgies acting as stern realisation for the task that Baresic is presented with.
Conversely, South Melbourne are coming off a confidence boosting nil-all draw against Heidelberg United, a game in which the home side were tipped to suffer a hiding yet binded together to achieve an unlucky draw.
South coach John Anastasiadis was greatly impressed by the entire performance of his youthful squad last week and will no doubt make none if very few changes to this weeks starting line-up.
Showing his immense class Kosta Salapisidis will again prove to be the linchpin for the home side. His partnership with fellow NSL warhorse and club captain Vaughn Coveny will prove crucial to South’s goal getting ability. In the centre of defence the newly-formed partnership of Arthur Tsonis and emerging young-gun Steven O’Dor will hopefully provide the “bedrock” base the home side needs to keep the Saints forwards at bay, against the Bergers these two were outstanding and managed to repel any Heidelberg threat.
A win for South is a must and will consolidate a strong and encouraging start to the season. Conversely, a defeat for the Saints will only serve as a further indicator of a potentially long season ahead.