Tuesday, 21 July 2009 11:39 AM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC’s home clash against Hume City on Sunday will mark the side’s 200th match at Bob Jane Stadium across all competitions, including National and Victorian Soccer League, finals and Cup matches since the venue opened in 1995.
The first ever match at Bob Jane Stadium was on the 26th of November 1995, when nearly 12,000 fans saw West Adelaide Hellas come from 2-1 down to win 2-3 thanks to a late goal from Nathan Day. West Adelaide (and current Green Gully) forward Pablo Cardozo had the honour of scoring the first ever goal at the stadium, with Danny Allsopp becoming the first South Melbourne FC player to score at Lakeside.
South’s first trophy at the stadium was won in the 1995/96 season, as Frank Arok’s young side overcame the Melbourne Knights (4-3 over two legs), Marconi Fairfield (3-2), Canberra Cosmos (3-2) and Newcastle Breakers (3-1) to win the NSL Cup for the second time in the club’s history. Vaughan Coveny netted a double and Steve Panopoulos converted a penalty in the final that was played in front of 5,000 fans.
In coming seasons, South made the stadium an absolute fortress for opposition sides to visit. Not surprisingly, the back-to-back NSL championship seasons of 97/98 and 98/99 were on the back of an extremely strong home record. South only lost once at home in those two seasons, with that loss being in the final round of the 97/98 season against Carlton, when the Minor Premiership was already wrapped up and with many of the regular starting eleven rested for the match.
The derbies against Carlton at Bob Jane Stadium were always great matches that attracted crowds regularly in excess of 10,000. One of the finest matches ever at the stadium was in 98/99, when South came from behind to lead Carlton 4-3 at halftime. Andy Vlahos equalised for Carlton with three minutes remaining and the final score line of 4-4 remains the highest scoring drawn match at the venue to this day. South’s come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Perth Glory that season (midweek match in front of over 11,000 fans) also ranks as one of the best ever home matches.
Whilst South struggled in the league in 99/00, the side still maintained a reasonable record at home. The stadium was regularly filled with Brazilian dancers that season as South celebrated its participation at the inaugural World Club Championships in Brazil. The final home match of the season was used as a send-off for Ange Postecoglou (127 matches in charge), who left to take up coaching the Young Socceroos. South defeated Newcastle Breakers 4-0 to end the season on a high.
Season 00/01 was an exceptional one for South despite the side falling at the final hurdle by losing the Grand Final. The side went through the regular season undefeated at home and celebrated the Minor Premiership after a huge 6-2 win against Northern Spirit in the final round. However in a cruel twist, South lost its only home game of the season against Wollongong 1-2 in the second leg of the Major Semi Final. The result meant a 4-2 aggregate win for the Wolves and the right to host the Grand Final.
The following season saw South go from whipping boys at the halfway point of the season to outside championship favourite by season’s end. In the final round, South needed to beat Marconi at Bob Jane Stadium to qualify for the finals series. Con Boutsianis netted two brilliant goals and Coveny added a third as South triumphed 3-1 to storm into the finals series. South continued its good home record by beating the Brisbane Strikers 2-0 in the first leg of the Elimination Final.
An inconsistent 02/03 home record corresponded with South’s struggle overall that season. The final NSL season of 03/04 saw a bright start before a late fade in form saw a couple of bad losses at home. Retiring legend Mehmet Durakovic played his final home match for the club in the second leg of the Elimination Final against Marconi. Michael Curcija netted a double to send the team through to the Minor Semi Final, as Durakovic was chaired off the ground by thousands of invading fans.
South resumed life back in the VPL with a 0-0 draw against Heidelberg in front of over 11,000 spectators at Lakeside in 2005. South’s biggest ever win at the stadium was recorded the following season with a 7-0 victory against the Melbourne Knights. South finished the season in third but won through to the Grand Final, held at Bob Jane Stadium. Gianni De Nittis’ headed goal was enough to give South a 1-0 win over Altona Magic and the club’s eighth state league title.
2007 and 2008 were a disaster on the whole, with the side missing the finals in both seasons. However there were some excellent home results, notably the 5-2 win over the Oakleigh Cannons and the come-from-behind 3-3 draw against Preston. In the current campaign, South has been undefeated at home since losing the opening two matches of the season. Most pleasing is that the side has been able to maintain good form at home as well as away, something that South has always struggled to achieve, even in the NSL.
South Melbourne FC is hoping to celebrate its 200th match at Bob Jane Stadium with a victory against Hume on Sunday afternoon. A win could potentially give the club a five point lead in second spot, which will be an enormous advantage with some difficult matches still to come in the regular season.