Friday, 30 March 2007 12:47 AM
By Michael Tsoukalis
South Melbourne faces its toughest road trip of the season this Friday night when John Anastasiadis’s men travel to Jack Edwards Reserve to take on early pacesetters and the Stuart Munro-coached Oakleigh Cannons.
The Cannons have started the season in great form and find themselves one point ahead of Green Gully atop the Foxtel Cup standings, largely spurred on by striker Esala Masi who has started the season in scintillating form, leading the goal scoring charts with seven goals in only four matches.
Such has been Masi’s dominance that the Fijian forward has scored 70% of Oakleigh’s goals this campaign with his physical presence and powerful shooting incredibly hard to contain.
The Cannons are coming off a thumping 0-4 away win against Heidelberg and go into Friday’s encounter full of confidence.
Conversely, South produced a very disappointing display against Green Gully last Sunday, going down 0-1, and will need to greatly improve in order to contain the rampant Cannons.
South are clearly missing the suspended Tansel Baser whose experience and ability to spread the play in the centre of the park has not been convincingly covered during his absence.
Coach John Anastasiadis may have to experiment with a different player in the defensive midfield role for Friday’s encounter with Oakleigh’s midfield consisting of Bill Damianos, Ante Pelikan and Scott Webster one of the better combinations in the league.
A massive crowd is expected on Friday with South youngster Miladen Tosic thrust into the limelight after veteran goalkeeper and club legend Dean Anastasiadis tore an anterior cruciate ligament against Green Gully and as a result has likely played his last game for the club.
Tosic did well when he came on for Anastasiadis but will face massive test on Friday, playing against one of the championship favorites in only his second ever senior appearance.
Last season the Cannons managed to beat South twice during the regular campaign and finished minor Premiers by a staggering 13 points. The 2nd regular season contest in particular saw South dominate at Bob Jane Stadium, wasting chance-after-chance only to succumb to a Con Boutsianis 30 yard special that rendered South keeper Dean Anastasiadis a spectator as he saw the ball crash into the top corner.
South however ended up winning the premiership and over the past two seasons both clubs have managed to build up a steadily growing rivalry.
With South eager to get their season back on track and the Cannons keen to establish themselves as early title favourites, an enticing and entertaining encounter awaits.