Friday, 24 February 2006 12:20 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Sunday South Melbourne return to Bob Jane Stadium looking to get their season back on track after last week’s disappointing 3-0 loss away to Kingston City.
South come up against eternal rivals the Preston Lions with both teams having much to play for with the Vlado Vanis coached Lions in an uncharacteristic 2nd last position, having picked up only 1 point from their opening three fixtures.
Conversely, South will be looking to make amends for a below par performance against Kingston whereby loose marking and individual errors were punished severely by the Kingston frontline.
The Lions possess a group of quality players that would trouble any Vodafone Cup side. In particular, Vodafone Cup 2005 player-of-the-year Anthony Magnacca, an ex-South Melbourne player at one point, must be given close attention. Magnacca has the ability to glide past players with ease as well as being able to score goals and will have to play well if Preston is to snatch a positive result.
Furthermore, youngsters Serkan Oksuz and Steven Pace both have NSL experience and have matured into quality Premier League players, whilst veteran defender Les Anastasiou continues to marshal the defence.
However, question marks remain over whether the Lions can replace prolific marksman John Sapazovski who moved to Fawkner in the off-season. The Lions have always been able to rely on a return of 10 or so goals per season from their ex-frontman with their season no doubt hinging on finding an adequate replacement.
Results wise the Lions have started the season very shakily with comprehensive defeats against the Melbourne Knights (1-3) and the Sunshine Georgies (4-1) rightfully raising question marks over their defence.
Conversely, South coach John Anastasiadis may make some changes after seeing his team dominate possession against Kingston but fail, time-and-time again to make effective use of the ball.
Furthermore, with both Con Blatsis and Kevin Nelson picking up injuries against Kingston, coach Anastasiadis may have his hand forced with the likes of Vasilios Natsioulas and Gianni De Nittis pushing for greater influence.
Anastasiadis will also be looking for better organization from his defence; a strong point of last season and in the opening two games of the current campaign, against Kingston the South defence was exposed making uncharacteristic mistakes and as a result was rightfully punished.
Finally, South Captain Vaughn Coveny has finished his A-League stint with Newcastle but is likely to miss due to commitments with the New Zealand national team. However, Coveny should be at South’s disposal in the coming weeks.