A solid week of football comprising three matches in seven days came to an end on Sunday with the South Melbourne Under 16 securing a win over Murray United with just three minutes left on the clock.
Having recorded a draw with Bentleigh Greens (2-2) on Wednesday night and a win against Dandenong Thunder (2-1) on Saturday, the team under the captaincy of Ryan Crisp faced a solid opposition in Murray United.
Coach Dean Stafrace had rotated players through the week to provide his boys the best opportunity to be fit and ready for the Sunday encounter. His confidence in the line-up was rewarded in the 12th minute, when Ryan Crisp rose from the pack and headed he corner kick from Aloysius Laurie into the net to give South Melbourne the lead.
The pitch conditions and winds at the State Football Centre in Darebin favoured South Melbourne as the home team with the venue being used whilst Albert Park becomes ready following the Grand Prix. With the wind at their backs, the boys applied continual pressure on goal and multiple corners forced the best out of the Murray United defenders.
Murray United adapted keeping the ball on the ground and started to make use of both flanks to reach deep into their final third. Their efforts were rewarded not once but twice in the final stages of the first half when they received two penalties. Benjamin Barlow converted the first in the 26th minute and then Lewis Greenwold followed up in the 38th minute to give Murray United the lead going into the half time break.
In the second half, the South Melbourne boys had to work a lot harder. Play was a lot more balanced with the focus in the midfield where neither side able gain the upper hand. Patience was the call for coach Dean Stafrace consistently telling the boys to keep the work rate up and the opportunities would come.
In the 65th minute, Deni Kulas whipped in a well weighted free kick that was headed forward by Jack Athanas. A missed clearance enabled Brandon Clover to put his right foot on the ball and volley it into the net to give South the equaliser.
Coach Dean Stafrace was contemplating a structural change for his line-up. Engaging with his colleagues on the side-line, he had to balance defending against a pacey Murray United with a strong wind behind them or pushing forward to go for the win.
Some timely and tactical substitutions were made, leaving the boys on the pitch to fight it out to the final whistle. With just three minutes left on the clock, Nicholas Andrianakos found space and made a run down the left into the area. He cut the ball across the face of goal, finding Brandon Clover who made no mistake with the left boot slamming it past the keeper at the near post. His strike and some resolute defence secured the points in a 3-2 win for South Melbourne.
Mikhail Capodistrias can usually be found at left back for the South Melbourne Under 16s, however with squad rotations this week he was on the sideline supporting and analysing his team mates performance.
Talking to smfc.com.au he provided his perspective on the match saying “the boys played well today, moving the ball well and we took our chances. The positives today were we moved the ball wide to give us options to go forward and when we lost the ball, our transition was good.”
Capodistrias also reflected on the progress of the team playing three matches in seven days saying “we’ve played against two of the top teams in our league and come away with seven points this week. Murray United were a solid team and showed us what they were made of.”
The Under 16 return to the pitch this week to play third placed Northcote City at John Cain Memorial Park on Sunday afternoon.