South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

South Melbourne FC v Oakleigh Cannons – Match Preview

South Melbourne FC v Oakleigh Cannons – Match Preview

Thursday, 26 July 2007 11:24 PM

By Michael Tsoukalis

This Friday night South Melbourne faces a season-defining encounter against the Oakleigh Cannons. Having not scored for four successive games as well as slowly losing touch with the top six, South must take maximum points against bitter rivals Oakleigh if they are to salvage their season.

John Anastasiadis’s men have had a horror month, dropping two disappointing games against Heidelberg and Richmond, whilst gradually starting to regain form in their last two encounters against Essendon and Green Gully, yet still failing to find the back of the net.

However, over the past two weeks Coach Anastasiadis seems to have found a settled lineup which has seen the inspirational Tansel Baser return to the centre of the defence partnering the inexperienced yet lion-hearted Frank Drakopoulos.

South have only conceded once in their past three games but have struggled up front with the often isolated Ricky Diaco finding it difficult without enough support, not to mention a lack of clinical finishing which has seen South, especially in their last two encounters, miss guilt-edged chances which could’ve seen John Anastasiadis’s men take the three points.

In South’s defence, a lack of genuine central midfielders has seen last season’s goal scoring sensation Gianni De Nittis having to be used out-of-position in the centre of the park, furthermore, the lack of form of Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes who has been nursing an ankle injury for a great part of the season has largely thwarted South’s ability to open opposition defences up.

Coach Anastasiadis will have to consider giving Vasilios Natsioulas more game time. Nastsioulas has been starting on the bench since the Heidelberg game almost a month ago, yet his proven ability to beat players and deliver quality service as well as scoring the odd goal or two would no doubt add some much needed firepower to South’s lineup.

In the Oakleigh camp, Stuart Munro’s men are sitting in second position coming off a sterling 6-0 thumping of Heidelberg United last week. The Cannons have the best attack in the league with strikers Esala Masi and Juan Nilo having scored 20 goals between them.

The recent signing of ex-South striker and journeyman Con Boutsianis adds a further cutting edge to the South Eastern Suburbs-based club with high quality players of European experience in Steve Laurie, Bill Damianos, Michael Panopoulos and goalkeeper Michael Turnbull making the Cannon’s first eleven perhaps the most talented and dangerous in the league.

Add to the mix the rapid emergence of highly rated ex-South Melbourne junior Paul Giannou and the Cannons have options and quality all over the park that will be extremely hard for South to exploit.

Earlier in the season, South played well at Jack Edwards Reserve, giving up a one-nil lead to eventually draw one-all in what was a spirited performance by John Anastasiadis’s men. However, the loss of defenders Dino Djulbic and Steven O’Dor to the A-League, not to mention the injury suffered by young midfielder Nick Curtis means that South will send in a very different lineup come Friday but with their season on the line, John Anastasiadis’s have no excuse not to produce their best to be in contention for the invaluable three points on offer.

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