Thursday, 17 March 2011 11:01 PM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC faces arguably its toughest test this season on Friday night when the team travels to Jack Edwards Reserve to face the leaders Oakleigh.
The Cannons are on top of the ladder, and have enjoyed an advantage over other Victorian Premier League sides by playing four of their first five games at home, and have played an additional match than second-placed Dandenong Thunder. Nevertheless, Oakleigh have achieved near maximum points so far in 2011 and will be difficult opponents for South to overcome away from home.
South will head into the match keen on extending an unbeaten run of two matches, with a well-deserved 2-1 win over Bentleigh followed by a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against rivals Heidelberg United in the derby at Olympic Village last Sunday. That draw broke what had been four straight defeats at the Olympic Village since 2006. Jesse Krncevic scored his fourth goal from five Victorian Premier League matches against Heidelberg, and former Berger Marinos Gasparis saved South’s blushes with an injury-time header to earn South Melbourne a well-deserved point.
South will still have Kliment Taseski missing this Friday, with the midfielder in his second week of a three match suspension. However, coach Eddie Krncevic’s biggest problem will be to stop his defence from leaking goals. The team has yet to keep a clean sheet after five Victorian Premier League matches in 2011 and the manner in which the second goal was conceded against Heidelberg last Sunday would have raised more concerns for the coaching staff. However, in more positive news, substitute goalkeeper Zaim Zenelli (who replaced Stefaan Sardelic in goals after 70 minutes following a head injury) looked calm and composed when on the field, as did new signing Bobby Russell (on loan from the Gold Coast United youth side) at right back. Many older South fans may recall another Bobby Russell representing South Melbourne FC in the 1980s and being an integral part of South’s 1984 National Soccer League Championship team, as well as being NSL Player of the Year in 1986.
South has played Oakleigh six times at Jack Edwards Reserve since entering the Victorian Premier League in 2005, with both teams winning twice each and with two draws making the head-to-head at the venue level in every way. South traditionally plays very well at Oakleigh, so nothing less than a good performance is expected on Friday night. However, the Oakleigh match is the perfect opportunity for South to show that it is serious about winning the Victorian Premier League this year, with an opportunity to beat the current leaders in their own backyard. In the corresponding fixture last season, Fernando De Moraes scored at the near post following a wonderful through-ball by Eddie Cetkin in the 30th minute to give South a 1-0 victory, its first win at Jack Edwards Reserve since 2005.
Friday night’s game kicks off at 8:30pm.