By John Kyrou (Photo by Cindy Nitsos)
South Melbourne FC travels to George Andrews Reserve for the second time this season when it meets the Dandenong Thunder in another must-win game for Chris Taylor’s side this Saturday night.
With four rounds remaining in the National Premier League Victoria season, South lead the Oakleigh Cannons at the top of the NPL ladder by seven points but the Cannons have a game in hand. Three wins from its final four matches will secure the League Championship for South irrespective of what Oakleigh does, therefore Saturday night is a fantastic opportunity to secure one of those wins and put pressure on the Cannons going into their match at Werribee on Sunday afternoon.
South bounced back to winning ways last weekend with a thoroughly convincing 4-0 victory against Werribee City at Lakeside Stadium. A double from Milos Lujic, a penalty from Jamie Reed and a second half finish from Nick Epifano won the three points and erased the memory of the disappointing 2-1 away defeat against the Bentleigh Greens four days earlier. Dean Hennessey’s Dandenong goes into Saturday’s match in winning form as well, having defeated the Ballarat Red Devils 0-1 on Saturday 9 August. The Thunder are currently in tenth spot on the NPL ladder with 25 points and are eight points clear of second-last Ballarat but the Red Devils have two games in hand and could reduce that lead should they win their catch-up matches.
The big question is whether Taylor will start Jason Saldaris or Chris Maynard in goal on Saturday night, with Maynard playing his first League match of the season against Werribee City last Sunday and keeping a clean sheet. Considering that Taylor rarely changes a winning side, it is more likely that Maynard will start again. A big boost for South is the fact that their former player Alan Kearney will be missing from the Dandenong line-up after the midfielder was sent off against Ballarat last weekend. Also missing will be Alan Mulcahy, who is serving an automatic one-match ban after accumulating five yellow cards this season. Kris Kioussis is one Dandenong player to watch out for on Saturday night as he absolutely destroyed South on the left side of midfield when the two sides played their Dockerty Cup match at George Andrews Reserve in May.
The two sides met each other earlier this season twice in the same week. In their Sixth Round Dockerty Cup meeting on Wednesday 28 May at George Andrews Reserve, Dandenong completely dominated South but could not score in normal time and South stole the game in extra time thanks to youngster Kobbie Boahene’s goal. In the League meeting a few days later at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday 1 June, South smashed the Thunder 5-0 thanks to goals from Lujic (41’), Mathew Theodore (44’), Tyson Holmes (70’), James Musa (88’) and a Reed penalty (89’).
Saturday night’s match kicks off at 7PM at George Andrews 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 #DTvSM.