By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC hosts Heidelberg United in the traditional derby at Lakeside Stadiumon Sunday evening in a match of high importance for both sides. The derby presents South the opportunity to consolidate (or even extend) its four point advantage over Oakleigh on top of the NPL Victoria ladder, whilst for the Bergers the derby is an opportunity to narrow South’s lead over them to just five points.
South goes into the match having gained only one point from its last two League matches, with a 3-0 away loss against Oakleigh (Friday 6 June) followed by the frustrating 1-1 home draw against Goulburn Valley Suns (Sunday 15 June). Despite only managing a draw against the League’s bottom side last Sunday, South created plenty of opportuntiies to score (including missing a penalty kick) but just could not get a second goal to see off a very determined Suns outfit. It is uncertain whether Stephen Hatzikostas will be cleared to represent South for the Heidelberg match following his transfer from Bentleigh mid-week, however should he not be, Coach Chris Taylor still has many midfield options to choose from. Taylor will want all players firing for two very important derby matches, starting with the League derby against Heidelberg and then the Dockerty Cup Quarter Final match against the Melbourne Knights on Wednesday night.
George Katsakis’ Bergers side have been one of the form teams in the NPL Victoria competition over the past few months, picking up six wins and two draws from its past eight League matches after losing three of their five opening matches. This leaves the Bergers in outright third place on the NPL ladder with 26 points, three points clear of fourth-placed Bentleigh but still a fair way behind both South Melbourne (34 points) and Oakleigh Cannons (30 points). However unlike South, Heidelberg come into the derby in winning form by having enjoyed a thumping 2-5 away victory against the Dandenong Thunder last Saturday night. Two players for South to watch out for in the derby are Dan Heffernan (with 10 goals this season) and Kaine Sheppard (six goals this season, including a double against Dandenong last week).
The two sides met in the opening match of the 2014 NPL Victoria season and South triumped 0-3 at the Olympic Village thanks to first half goals from Mathew Theodore and Milos Lujic and a late headed goal from Jamie Reed to seal the three points. The South faithful would love nothing more than a repeat of that scoreline again on Sunday evening.