South Melbourne FC face local rivals Port Melbourne tonight, knowing that a victory at SS Anderson Reserve will give them temporary ownership of top spot on the PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria table.
The clash against a revamped Port Melbourne side presents a stern test for the reigning Champions, who are undefeated across all competitions in 2015.
In recent weeks, Chris Taylor’s men have shown their title credentials by grinding out a number of hard fought victories in the League. Two successive 1-0 victories, against Hume City and Pascoe Vale respectively, gives South 23 points after nine games. Heidelberg United currently occupy first position on the PS4 NPL Victoria table with 25 points from ten games, with the Bergers on the road to face North Geelong on Saturday afternoon.
Chris Taylor will be unperturbed by the manner of the victories as his side continues to build momentum throughout the season. South have now gone a total of 344 minutes without conceding a goal across all competitions. During this time, Captain Michael Eagar has been a tremendous force in the centre of defence, having resumed a centre-half role in the absence of injured defender Kristian Konstantinidis.
Another man who has played a crucial role in the recent run of wins has been centre-forward Milos Lujic. The reigning Golden Boot winner has gone on a remarkable goal-scoring run recently, having found the back of the net in each of his last eight matches across both League and Cup competitions. Lujic’s first-half strikes in South’s past two encounters have been the only goals in each match, underlining his importance to the team.
It is unlikely that there will be many changes to the side that defeated Pascoe Vale last Friday. Andy Brennan, who was signed by A-League outfit Newcastle Jets during the week, is still available to play for South until early June.
After avoiding relegation by the narrowest of margins in 2014, Port Melbourne appear to be one of the competition’s most improved sides this season. The Sharks sit comfortably in sixth position on the League ladder, with four victories from ten matches so far in 2015. Many eyes were on Eric Vassiliadis’ men after back-to-back 4-0 wins against Oakleigh and North Geelong, although Port has stumbled in recent weeks and come into tonight’s game with only a point from their past three games.
Players to watch out for include former South players Trent Rixon and Kamal Ibrahim, who have both scored four goals this campaign, as well as Julius Davies, who has been through the youth system at Bayern Munich no less.
In the corresponding meeting between the two sides on Friday 28 March 2014, two late Leigh Minopoulos goals sealed a 2-3 win for South.
The match kicks off at 8.15pm at SS Anderson Reserve in Port Melbourne. 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.