Wednesday, 2 March 2005 11:42 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Top-of-the-table football arrives at Jack Edwards Reserve this Friday night when Vodafone Premier League frontrunners South Melbourne make the trek to Oakleigh’s turf.
Having surprised many with their superb start to the season South Melbourne go into Friday’s fixture knowing that a positive result will help consolidate their position atop the VPL.
Coach John Anastasiadis must be commended for not only putting together a squad capable of positive results, but for also instilling a unity which in such a short space of time has managed to capture the imagination of the South Melbourne faithful.
That said, the Cannons possess one of, if not the most talented and experienced squads in this season’s competition and must be approached with extreme caution. Former South great Steve Panopoulos will anchor the midfield with another ex-South midfielder George Goutzioulis trusted in a playmaking role. In defence ex-South defender Nick Tolios forms part of a solid backline which also includes ex-Melbourne Knights defender Antun Kovacic, ex-South and Carlton player Con Anthopoulos with former South favourite Sam Poutakidis a chance to line-up after missing the beginning of the season through injury.
In goal the Cannons may have lost Adrian Cagalj to the Melbourne Knights but in replacement Stuart Webster possess a former VPL goalkeeper of the year. Up front Oakleigh are extremely dangerous with ex-Knight Ante Pelikan leading the line with the experienced and ex-Gippsland Falcons striker Juan Nilo playing off him.
South are expected to field an almost exact replica of the team which lined up against the Bulleen Zebras with perhaps Peter Koutsoupias a direct swap for the suspended Ryan Dinse. A feature of South Melbourne’s play thus far has been their combined defensive efforts. Experienced goalkeeper Dean Anastasiadis has been superb in marshalling his defence with the grit and sheer determination of the likes of Arthur Tsirtsakis and Arthur Tsonis well complemented by the all-round class of Con Blatsis, the attack-minded Rama Tavsancioglu and the youth of Steven O’Dor, though O’Dor – as he did against Bulleen – will miss through injury. In the centre of the park Evan Karavitis has been superb doing the hard leg work with the front duo of Kosta Salapasidis and Vaughn Coveny one of the deadliest partnerships in the league.
With everything to play for and a full house expected, Friday’s encounter potentially looms as the beginning of a newly-formed and exciting rivalry.