Thursday, 8 April 2010 10:15 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC welcomes traditional rival Heidelberg United to Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday for the final derby match at the ground before the $50.3 million renovations on the stadium commences. The home side will be chasing a big derby victory over the Bergers in order to achieve three successive victories in the VPL as well as send the ground off in style.
The match has huge significance for both sides, with South extremely keen on ending a run of five successive losses against the Bergers in the League, whilst Heidelberg is desperately chasing its first win of the season. Prior to the Easter break, South enjoyed a hard-fought yet professional 2-0 victory against Dandenong Thunder at George Andrews Reserve (highlights can be seen on smfcTV), whilst Heidelberg fought out a 1-1 draw against the Oakleigh Cannons at the Olympic Village.
Whilst South will go into the match as favourites, their opponents and the occasion itself are not to be underestimated. Despite constantly defeating Heidelberg in the pre-season Hellenic Cup competition in recent years, South has not beaten the Bergers in the VPL since round 14 of the Championship-winning season of 2006. The next League meeting after that game was a 3-3 draw (round 1 of 2007) and since then the Bergers have won all five derby meetings in the VPL, giving them all the motivation needed to spoil South’s party on Sunday.
South’s summer signing Joey Keenan is available for selection for the derby, telling SouthRadio during the week that “it’s up to the coaches on whether I play or not but I am available and hopeful to get at least 45 minutes on the pitch on Sunday.” In other team news, Steve O’Dor is looking likely to play despite picking up a hamstring injury against the Thunder two weeks ago. Former Bergers Marinos Gasparis and James Stefanou are two South players keenly looking forward to the derby, with Gasparis looking to follow up his first goal for South at Dandenong by scoring his first goal for the club at Bob Jane Stadium. Stefanou will be looking to join O’Dor in closely marking Heidelberg’s Osagie Ederado, who scored the only goal of the game in the corresponding fixture last year.
Many South supporters will recall that fittingly, the final match at South’s traditional ground of Middle Park was against Heidelberg in round 1 of the 1994/95 National Soccer League season. On that day, South defeated the Bergers 4-1 in front of 11,926 spectators. Ivan Kelic scored twice for the Blues (73′, 86′), whilst Con Boutsianis (2′) and Francis Awaritefe (65′) chimed in with one goal each. Whilst a similar scoreline on Sunday would be a dream come true for the home side, the most important thing will be winning the three points, even if it is by a solitary goal.
South Melbourne FC wishes to remind South fans as well as the general footballing public that there are free double passes for entry into Sunday’s match. Details can be found at https://www.smfc.com.au/promo
South Melbourne FC also wishes to remind everyone that whilst the match kicks off at 3pm, there will be pre-match entertainment commencing at 2:30pm. Supporters are encouraged to arrive at this time to witness the entertainment as well as getting a final look and ‘feel’ of the venue before the renovations commence.