Saturday, 14 July 2007 5:03 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
This Sunday South Melbourne faces a do-or-die fixture against Victorian football’s most consistent team; the Ian Dobson coached Green Gully.
Both sides have struggled for form over the past three weeks with Green Gully producing three consecutive draws and South losing two and drawing one, but perhaps of more concern, failing to score a goal in each of those three matches.
South must win if they intend on challenging for a finals birth and hence defending their championship whilst Green Gully continues to chase the Preston Lions for the minor premiership with a win necessary in order to stay in touch and avoid a pack of three teams all in contention for second place.
South showed significant improvement in last week’s encounter against the Essendon Royals where a comfortable win should’ve been wrapped up inside the first 30 minutes, but inaccurate finishing and some sheer bad luck, saw Essendon absorb the intense pressure and play out the remaining time with 10 men behind the ball to earn a vital draw.
South Coach John Anastasiadis sent out a far more balanced lineup with both Ricky Diaco and Fernando Moraes returning to action. Diaco was arguably South’s most dangerous player and was unlucky not to score at least twice whilst Moraes continued to lack the influence he has had over the team in the past two seasons.
The new central defensive pairing of Frank Drakopoulos and Tansel Baser worked reasonably well with goalkeeper Mitch Langerak failing to be tested.
Anastasiadis persisted with leaving the skillful Vasilios Natsioulas on the bench and will no doubt be tempted to start the attacking/midfield winger who has looked South’s most impressive player on quite a few occasions this season.
With Gianni De Nittis being used out-of-position last week in a midfield role, Natsioulas cold be in line for a recall to the first eleven.
In the Gully camp, like pretty much every season, Gully’s experience and know-how to get points at this level has kept them in good stead.
Experienced players like Dean Fak, Dragi Nastevski, Brandon Vassallo, Jeffrey Fleming and Andy Vargas form a very solid core for the Keilor-based outfit with the addition of big Kiwi forward Campbell Banks who has chipped in with five goals this season adding a further dimension to Gully’s game.
Youngster Joel Nikolic is also experiencing somewhat of a breakout year with the young forward having scored six times this campaign.
The addition of Emanuel Muscat from the Sunshine Georgies has further stabilized Dobson’s men who have the third best defensive record in the league and are extremely hard to break down, something which South found out first hand earlier in the season, when Gully poached a late goal to beat the Albert Park-based club by one goal to nil.