By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC has the opportunity to extend its lead at the top of the National Premier League Victoria ladder to ten points with a win against Pascoe Vale at Hosken Reserve tonight. Chris Taylor’s side are currently seven points clear of second-placed Oakleigh Cannons with seven League matches remaining in the season. The best case scenario at the conclusion of this round (South defeat Pascoe Vale and Oakleigh lose against Northcote City) is South being ten points clear with six rounds left; the worst case scenario is having its lead cut down to just four points.
South Melbourne goes into tonight’s match having had its five match winning run in the League broken with the 1-1 draw against Northcote City at John Cain Reserve last Saturday. It was a cruel blow as Milos Lujic had put South ahead 0-1 in the 73rd minute, only for the referee to controversially award a penalty to Northcote that Jonathan Munoz converted after 80 minutes. Vitale Ferrante’s Pascoe Vale come into tonight’s game in inconsistent form, with three draws, one win and a loss from their last five League matches. Their most recent result was a mid-week 0-2 home loss against Werribee City on Tuesday night. Despite that loss, Pascoe Vale are currently in seventh spot with 26 points from 19 League matches, nine points clear of the relegation zone and in relative mid-table comfort.
South should have a full squad to choose from, with right-back Tim Mala returning after serving his automatic one match ban against Northcote following his accumulation of five yellow cards this season. With Mala expected to go straight back into his usual right back position, it remains to be seen whether Shaun Timmins or Brad Norton start the match at left-back. Norton occupied the position last weekend as Timmins switched to right-back to cover Mala’s absence. Striker Jamie Reed was substituted last week after suffering a leg injury, however he is expected to be fit for tonight’s match.
Pascoe Vale’s squad feature names familiar to South fans, with former South players Stefaan Sardelic, Carl Recchia and Joseph Youssef usually in their starting eleven. Goalkeeper Sardelic was on the bench in mid-week as Yaren Sozer filled in between the sticks and it remains to be seen if the former South custodian will return tonight. Pascoe Vale have many dangerous players such as Tomi Milardovic, Jonathan Voulgaris, Jake Nakic and Michael Ferrante and with the match being played at their home ground, they will no doubt provide seriously tough competition for South tonight in a match that many see as a danger match for Taylor’s side.
The two sides met earlier this season at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday 18 May, where a first half goal from Mathew Theodore proved to be the difference as South won 1-0. In the corresponding match played between the two sides on Saturday 1 June 2013 at Hosken Reserve, Pascoe Vale held on for a 0-0 draw against South despite playing the match with ten men for the majority of the game following Luca Santilli’s sending off after only ten minutes.
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30PM at Hosken Reserve. Those unable to make the game can follow it with live updates on the South Melbourne FC Facebook page and on the Club’s official Twitter @smfc with the hashtags #NPLVIC and #PVvSM.