South Melbourne FC faces another tough away fixture this week when it heads to Cheltenham for a huge clash against the Bentleigh Greens on Friday night.
South has been on the road since defeating the Oakleigh Cannons at home in the PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria season opener. Chris Taylor’s men are halfway through a stretch of six consecutive away matches that has seen them record victories against North Geelong, Werribee City and Whittlesea United in last Saturday’s FFA Cup clash.
This Friday’s match with Bentleigh presents perhaps the sternest test of the season thus far. Last season’s FFA Cup semi-finalists currently sit on top of the NPL Victoria ladder with three wins from their four games, albeit having played one extra game than their nearest rivals. Their only blemish was the 1-1 draw with Werribee City, a side that almost snatched a point against South Melbourne a fortnight ago.
On paper this fixture appears to be a very evenly matched contest played between two sides that are likely to be gunning for the title at season’s end.
South will come into the match with confidence on the back of last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of State League 3 side Whittlesea United. Milos Lujic, Andy Brennan, Mathew Theodore, Luke Adams and Andy Kecojevic all got on the scoresheet in a display that was confident but expected.
Theodore’s successful return from injury was perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the win. The diminutive midfielder underwent hip surgery in the off season after playing a key part in last season’s Championship win. His return gives Taylor even more options in the midfield, an area where he is presently spoilt for riches. Theodore joins a group of playmakers that includes exciting youngster Kecojevic, Nick Epifano, Leigh Minopoulos, Iqi Jawadi and
David Stirton all available for selection, with Jake Barker-Daish still to return from a knee injury.
Tim Mala is also expected to be fit for the match, bolstering South’s defence against one of the most potent attacking teams in the League. Unfortunately, centre-back Kristian Konstantinidis will be out of action for at least three months after suffering an injury following a tackle on him in the Werribee match.
The Greens were one of just two sides to defeat South during last year’s League campaign in a match that finished 2-1 at Kingston Heath. Stirton was on the scoresheet for Bentleigh on that occasion, as was Tyson Holmes for South Melbourne. Both players will face their former clubs on Friday night. Bentleigh warmed up for Friday by putting nine goals past Seaford United in their FFA Cup fixture last weekend.
Since 2010, South and Bentleigh have met each other ten times, each recording four victories and two draws. If recent history and form are anything to go by, supporters of both sides can expect Friday night’s match to go down to the wire.
The contest kicks off at 8:15 pm at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex in Cheltenham. 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 #PS4NPL and #SMFC.