Monday, 30 June 2008 7:56 PM
By George Kouroumalis
A Tony Sterjovski strike in the 84th minute has seen Preston overcome all odds to defeat South Melbourne by two goals to one at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday.
In what was a critical contest for both iconic clubs, South went into the game requiring a victory to keep in touch with the top six. Preston on the other hand were keen on grasping all three points that would send them clear of the bottom four relegation zone.
The game started off in quite a scrappy manner, with numerous hard and committed tackles flying in from both sides.
The first shot in anger was fired in the 14th minute, when a speculative long range effort by Johnny Sapazovski was calmly caught by South goalkeeper Tommi Tomich.
South responded in the 15th minute. On this occasion some excellent solo work by Gianni De Nittis culminated in the young striker being denied from close range by Preston custodian Lou Acevski. From the resultant rebound off Acevski, Goran Zoric captured possession and hit another shot onto the target. As with the first shot on goal, Acevski made yet another remarkable save, turning the ball into the post and away for a corner.
The Blues continued to pile on the pressure and the home fans thought they had the lead in the 25th minute, when a well constructed move culminated in De Nittis slamming the ball past the helpless Acevski. However to the dismay of the home contingent, the linesman had flagged De Nittis for offside.
In the 35th minute, Acevski once again come to Preston’s rescue after making a sublime diving save to deny a Rama volley from well outside the area.
With this, both sides went into the break on even terms, with South having the better of the opening half.
This all changed in the opening stages of the second half, with Preston coming out of the rooms with a new found intent to take the game to the home side.
In the 52nd minute, Sapazovski signaled his clubs intentions by once again trying another long range effort, a shot that flew wide of the left hand upright.
However a minute later, Preston was awarded a free kick after South defender Sam Poutakidis was adjudged to have impeded the run of Preston captain Tony Sterjovski. From the resultant free kick, youngster Michael Bosevski stepped up and hit a superb strike onto the target and into the back of the net to give his side an unlikely advantage.
Preston could have doubled their lead on two occasions when both Johnny Sapazovski and his replacement Bale Micovski were denied brilliantly by Tomich.
With the alarm bells ringing in the South Melbourne camp, the South side lifted an extra cog in search for the vital equalising goal.
This goal had appeared to have been scpred in the 63rd minute, after what appeared to be a great run behind the defence by Rama was flagged for offside. This further infuriated the South captain who had also managed to grasp possession and chip Acevski before realising that the flag had been raised.
South however finally found the equaliser in the 72nd minute, after a dazzling run down the left hand flank by De Nittis saw the talented striker whip in an inch perfect cross to the near post. With the Preston defenders on the back foot, Nathan Caldwell slipped into the right position and nodded the ball past the helpless Acevski into the back of the net.
South continued to push more numbers forward in an attempt to try and find that elusive winner.
In the 84th minute this hope was slammed firmly shut by Preston, after yet another run by Sterjovski culminated in the skipper launching a dangerous cross to the back post from the left hand side. With no defender able to get in the way of the slightly over-hit cross, the ball somehow floated into base of the goalpost and subsequently deflecting into the back of the net to give Preston a remarkable 2-1 away victory.
South now head into the week off 4 points outside the top six with a tricky game in two weeks time against Green Gully away.