By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC hosts the Oakleigh Cannons at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a match celebrating winning the inaugural National Premier League Victoria Championship. South Melbourne was confirmed as the League Champions on Wednesday night when the Melbourne Knights defeated Oakleigh 1-0, leaving the Cannons seven points behind Chris Taylor’s side with only two matches remaining for both sides.
As League Champions, South Melbourne has qualified for the National Premier League play-offs where all the State Champions compete for the title of National Premier Leagues Champions. South’s first test will be against Tasmanian Champions South Hobart in Hobart over the weekend of 20-21 September, though details are yet to be confirmed by Football Federation Australia.
South goes into Sunday’s match with a full-strength squad to choose from, though it will be interesting to see if Taylor rotates his squad during the final two League matches of the season to allow fringe and younger players the chance to play first-team football and rest more senior players ahead of the NPL play-offs. This may present an opportunity for squad players such as Andrew Mullett, Kobbie Boahene, Dion Kirk and Andy Kecojevic to play and opportunities may also be given to some of the players from South’s NPL 20s side such as Stefan Zinni and Josh Markovski.
Although Sunday’s match is meaningless due to South’s uncatchable lead over the Cannons, the home side will want to give a good account of themselves. South won its opening fourteen matches across all competitions this season before losing 3-0 against Oakleigh at Jack Edwards Reserve on Friday 6 June. South has also been unbeaten at home in the League all season (with eleven wins and a draw from its 12 matches) and will want to continue that with another positive result against Oakleigh on Sunday. In the corresponding fixture played between the two sides at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday 26 May 2013, a double from Dimi Hatzimouratis secured a 2-1 win for the home side.
Sunday’s match kicks off at 5PM at Lakeside Stadium. South fans are strongly encouraged to attend not only to congratulate their 2014 Championship winning side but to also honour South Melbourne FC’s 1964 Victorian State League and 1984 National Soccer League Championship winning sides. 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 #SMvOC.