Thursday, 12 March 2009 12:22 PM
By John Kyrou
In an important fixture, South Melbourne FC faces the Preston Lions on Sunday in the club’s first away trip for season 2009.
In fact, Sunday’s match at BT Connor Reserve shapes up as a vital fixture for Preston, as they are also celebrating their 50th anniversary year this season. More importantly, the three points on offer are crucial, as both sides have experienced a winless start to the season and for one of the teams to beat one of their biggest Victorian rivals will go a long way to kick-starting its 2009 campaign.
South goes into the match on the back of two disappointing results at home in the opening two rounds, losing 0-1 against newly-promoted Dandenong Thunder and then by the same score against traditional rivals Heidelberg last Sunday. Defensive lapses were what ultimately cost the club at least a point in both matches, with an own goal against Dandenong and a lobbed cross against the Bergers sinking South’s hearts. If South is to earn all three points against Preston, it needs an extremely disciplined and resolute backline that is able to shut out the relentless pressure that Preston is expected to put them under when going forward. This task will be made even more difficult with the exclusion of captain Rama Tavsancioglu, who was sent off against Heidelberg and will miss the match through suspension.
Up forward for South, the bags of goals that were seen in the pre-season Hellenic Cup competition have not transpired in the VPL thus far. Frustratingly, the side has struggled to create many genuine goal scoring chances in its opening two matches. As a result, the club is yet to open its goal scoring and points account and sadly sits with a -2 goal difference and two home losses – disappointing when one considers how much of a fortress Bob Jane Stadium was back in the National Soccer League days and in the early seasons of the club’s return to the VPL.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the away side. Preston themselves are also struggling in their 50th anniversary year, conceding two late goals to lose 1-2 against the Melbourne Knights at home in the opening round, and then having their last match against Altona postponed after a lighting failure. The Lions have lost a number of their players from 2008, many of whom were an influence in the club’s solid results and appearance in the finals that season. Despite this, Lions supporters will be heartened by the fact that their side led the Knights for the majority of the match, and that several excellent chances to score were created against Altona before the abandonment of the fixture last week.
An interesting fact for South Melbourne FC is that since returning to the VPL in 2005, the side has not been beaten at BT Connor Reserve. In the three matches at the venue in that time, South has recorded two wins and one draw. The most recent result was in round 6 last season, when two goals in less than two minutes gave South a priceless 1-2 victory after the Lions had taken the lead. In fact it has been a long time since Preston beat South at Connor Reserve full stop. It has been 22 years, when Steve Smith and Zoran Ilioski’s goals were enough to overcome South 2-1 one Melbourne winter’s day in 1987. Charlie Egan scored South’s goal.
While a negative result will not dent either side’s hopes of a finals appearance in 2009, it will make life in Victoria’s top league even harder. The match kicks off on Sunday at 5pm.