Thursday, 21 April 2005 11:58 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne look to overcome a stuttering two weeks when they travel to the Veneto Club to take on the Michael Michalakopoulos’s coached Essendon Royals.
The Royals have had a mixed start to the current campaign, winning 4 games but also dropping an equal amount to find themselves lurking around mid-table in eighth place.
Essendon suffered major player departures in the off-season losing striker Vaughn Coveny and goalkeeper Dean Anastasiadis to South Melbourne, whilst exciting young midfielder Steven Pace moved to the Preston Lions. Furthermore, up-and-coming coach and former South stalwart/midfield workhorse David Clarkson joined Ange Postecoglou’s staff as an assistant to the National Youth setup.
Major signings for the Royals include that of ex-South defender Steve Iosifidis as well as striker Ben Harbinson. Harbinson is joined up front by yet another former South player, striker Michael Curcija. Together Curcija and Harbinson have netted 7 of the 9 goals the Royals have scored to-date and will no doubt provide a constant threat to the South defence.
In the South camp coach John Anastasiadis is no doubt facing his most testing period since taking over the coaching reigns. After a stellar start to the season, South has dropped its past two games – against Green Gully and Preston – by 1 goal to nil. In both encounters the Lakeside-based club deserved a result, in particular against Preston where South’s inability to convert a number of clear-cut chances cost them dearly.
South’s defence continues to be the best in the Vodafone Premier League with only 4 goals conceded but it is up-front where the side needs a talisman. After a succession of nicking games by the odd goal, South’s attackers need to stand up and begin to be more clinical in front of the uprights. However, the news isn’t all dire as the team is creating a decent amount of chances every game.
On the injury front, Arthur Tsonis will miss again due to a hamstring tear suffered in the game against Gully, whilst all other squad members should be available for selection.
Both sides met during the pre-season with a largely experimental South line-up eventually going down 1-0. That day winger/striker Peter Koutsoupias was the standout for South and will be pushing hard for a place in the starting 11. However, this time around much more is at stake with Essendon on the fringes of the top six whilst South will be looking to set aside a disappointing fortnight and look to once again push for the minor premiership.