Thursday, 22 June 2006 11:11 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
After a two week hiatus Vodafone Cup action resumes this weekend with eternal rivals the Preston Lions and South Melbourne clashing in a members-only fixture at BT Connor Reserve.
Earlier in the season South Melbourne pulled off an improbable triumph after a wonder-strike in stoppages by youngster Gianni DeNittis gave the Lakeside-based club maximum points.
Both teams will be eager for a result as a win for Preston will see them begin to apply pressure on the top 6 whilst a loss could see them back amongst the relegation fight.
In the South camp a win would go some way into consolidating their top-two position as well as improving South’s away record which has seen John Anastasiadis men only pick up 5 points so far on their travels.
Since their Round 4 clash the Lions have sacked ex-coach Vlado Vanis and brought in favourite son and ex-South Melbourne winger Goran Lozanovski in what was seen as somewhat of a leap of faith by the Preston board.
However, Lozanovski has brought stability to the club; dragging the Lions out of the relegation zone and embarking on a run which has seen them drop only one of their past 7 fixtures.
Lozanovski has also been astute in the transfer market bringing in experienced Premier League forward Nick Lazarevski from the Bulleen Lions with Lazarevski repaying Lozanovski’s faith by already managing 4 goals in only 6 starts for the Lions.
Coupled with the attacking menace of last season’s Vodafone Cup player-of-year Anthony Magnacca, who has managed 8 goals so far this season, the Lions possess an attacking frontline that will no doubt cause South quite a few headaches.
Conversely, South are currently the hottest team in the Vodafone Cup after dispatching long-time rivals the Melbourne Knights 7-0 at Bob Jane Stadium 2 weeks ago, building on an impressive home record which has seen the Lakeside-based club steer home 17 goals in their last 4 home games.
John Anastasiadis’s men find themselves clearly in 2nd place and will be looking towards applying some pressure on the Oakleigh Cannons who have a 4 point advantage with a game in hand a-top the Vodafone Cup standings.
South will be without inspirational Brazilian Fernando Moraes who is in Greece to finalize his move to first division side Aigaleo. Moraes’s absence will be very hard to fill as the Brazilian brought a level of technical ability and flair which was unique to the competition.
However, the recent form of midfield dynamo George Tzirtis and gradual emergence of youngster Vasilios Natsioulas will go some way into cushioning Moraes’ absence.
Midfielder Antonio Naglieri is making progress with his knee injury but is still likely to be out for 2-3 weeks whilst stalwart defender Con Blatsis still remains a long term absentee.
Diminutive forward Andreas Oliveira is a chance for inclusion with his presence leaving coach Anastasiadis with a selection headache after the recent goal-scoring return of Trinidad and Tobago native Kevin Nelson.